Home Asides LI judge declares PMT unconstitutional; $1.4B in MTA funds in jeopardy

LI judge declares PMT unconstitutional; $1.4B in MTA funds in jeopardy

by Benjamin Kabak

A state judge from Nassau County has declared the controversial but necessary payroll mobility tax unconstitutional in an ruling issued today. Relying on what I believe are very tenuous home-rule grounds, Supreme Court Judge R. Bruce Cozzens, a Conservative/Repubican party candidate when he last ran for reelection in 2011, struck down the measure which generates up to $1.4 billion a year for the MTA. “The MTA payroll tax is a special law, which does not serve a substantial state interest,” he said. Without a home rule request for all municipalities impacted — an nearly unprecedented requirement — the law cannot stand, he said.

I haven’t read the full decision and cannot comment on the immediate impact reaction. Needless to say, though, this isn’t good news for an agency already under tremendous budget stress. It jeopardizes both the operating and capital budgets in the short- and long-term. Without an adequate replacement for the lost revenue, it’s unclear how the MTA could cover such a budget gap.

Transit advocates did not hold back in condemning the decision. “This decision threatens the foundation of the state’s economy. Public transportation is critical to the New York City metropolitan area—an area which provides 45 percent of the state’s tax revenue, paying for countless public services from Niagara Falls to Montauk,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “We hope Governor Cuomo resolves this case, and that the appeals court will consider the substantial state interest when reviewing this ruling.” The MTA said it will “vigorously” pursue an appeal. I’ll have more as it becomes available.

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Alex C August 22, 2012 - 6:40 pm

Easy. Drastically cut LIRR service. They don’t want to pay, don’t give them service.

Larry Littlefield August 22, 2012 - 6:58 pm

A multi-year LIRR shutdown could have a host of advantages. Including advantages for future residents of Long Island, who will gain a train service operated by more dillegent workers and lower housing prices.

Something for nothing, however, is not just a Long Island thing. It’s Generation Greed.

Anon August 22, 2012 - 7:26 pm


Marc Shepherd August 22, 2012 - 7:29 pm

@Larry: It’s not generational. Remember the five-cent fare that killed the original subway operators? Wanting something for nothing is old hat in this state.

Larry Littlefield August 22, 2012 - 8:27 pm

New York City was killed by something for nothing a couple of generations ago. It was run for the benefit of those milking public service, or cashing in and moving out.

This has gone national.

The political class of Long Island is essentially the same sort of people who wrecked NYC in the 1960s and 1970s. They’ll do in Long Island next.

Quinn Raymond August 22, 2012 - 8:02 pm

This is insane.

aestrivex August 22, 2012 - 8:06 pm

i totally agree with the comments by alex and anon here: shut down as much LIRR service, prioritizing the lines that serve only nassau county, as covers the shortfall that this decision creates. if that isn’t enough, shut down LIRR. all of it. the MTA *MUST* start making good on its threats to do this — its going to have to at some point if its funding keeps getting cut like this, and decisions as blatantly one-sided as this are a much better place to start than less clear cases.

Quinn Raymond August 22, 2012 - 8:06 pm

Anon August 22, 2012 - 8:44 pm

Quinn, I didn’t expect to see King Kong and Jean-Luc Picard in there but it worked!

Quinn Raymond August 23, 2012 - 1:41 am

That GPS should be the transit lockbox!

Phillip Roncoroni August 22, 2012 - 8:34 pm

The LIRR is an absolute disaster of a money pit and should be the first thing on the chopping block.

Sam August 22, 2012 - 9:02 pm

As a NYC resident attending college in Suffolk county, I would be hard pressed to not have LIRR service as I cannot afford a car.

Andrew August 22, 2012 - 11:52 pm

Then your elected officials have failed you.

Chris August 22, 2012 - 9:11 pm

I’d expect this will be overturned on appeal, based on previous cases surrounding the same basic issue…

However, it’s pretty clear how the MTA could cover the budget gap, a fare hike. In particular on commuter rail. If we need to pay for the LIRR and we could impose the cost on either (1) people in Nassau county who ride the LIRR or (2) everyone in Nassau county, there’s a good case to be made for option #1. The need for the payroll tax is not that transit can’t be funded otherwise… it’s that other transit funding methods aren’t as progressive, and the people who support transit tend also to support redistribution.

Former Westchester Commuter August 22, 2012 - 10:19 pm

Between this judge and the comments of the Astorino regime at Westchester County I say shut it down. I’m talking about all MTA functions outside of the city line. I’m so sick of people complaining and not wanting to pay taxes. Are you kidding me? Do these fools think thus region can survive without this service. So I say do it…cut it all. Mothball the rolling stock and maintain the tracks, but that’s it. Except…serve Commecticut since they actually support it.

Folks we need to get serious here about overhauling Albany and getting power for things like the MTA under NYC control. This is absurd which is why I made this absurd suggestion. Though I would love to cut service for a week and see the impact! I’d be betting many executives wouldn’t be at work and many retail stores in Westchester and Nassua would be closed!

Adam August 23, 2012 - 12:16 pm

Would you shut down the New Haven as well? Considering it has its own subsidies. 😉

Roxie August 22, 2012 - 10:38 pm

Cut the moochers off. It’d be doing all us grateful NYC residents a huge favor in allowing the MTA to use that money for maintenance and construction in the city itself. Maybe even fund more of the 2nd Ave Subway.

Boris August 22, 2012 - 11:18 pm

Our government only works in panic mode, and such a massive cut would be one thing that can actually get it to act. So I say, let the decision be upheld on appeal, make the massive cuts, make a mess, make headline news. Otherwise it’s the continuation of death by a thousand cuts, which almost everyone can choose to ignore.

A deeper dive into the payroll tax ruling :: Second Ave. Sagas August 23, 2012 - 12:21 am

[…] « LI judge declares PMT unconstitutional; $1.4B in MTA funds in jeopardy Aug […]

On appeal, NY state court OKs MTA payroll tax :: Second Ave. Sagas June 27, 2013 - 12:37 am

[…] Ten months after a Long Island Supreme Court justice ruled that the MTA Payroll Mobility Tax was unconstitutional, an Appellate Division judge has overturned that ruling, guaranteeing that the MTA can continue to […]


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