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.