Even as Nassau County and various other suburban counties appeal the ruling upholding the payroll tax as constitutional, the MTA has enjoyed a credit boost from one ratings agency. According to a report issued this week by Moody’s, the payroll tax ruling represented “a credit positive” for the MTA, but as an appeal is ongoing, it’s a fragile step in the right direction for the debt-laden agency.
As Moody’s noted, the payroll tax represents nearly a tenth of the MTA’s annual budget, and overturning the tax would be very costly. “Loss of this revenue stream would add significant financial strain on the MTA and eliminate a sizable resource available for payment of debt service on the transportation revenues bonds,” the report explained. The MTA currenty has $33.2 billion in outstanding debt on the books, nearly $19 million of which are in those bonds.
The stark reality of the MTA’s budget situation has seemingly escaped those protesting against the payroll tax. The same group of politicians and business interests strenuously objected to a congestion pricing plan and were left with the payroll tax as the best option among a sea of bad ones. Overturning it would be incredibly costly not just to the MTA but to the suburban areas that benefit from having a direct transit connection to New York City. Yet the appeal, likely to be unsuccessful for Nassau County, rolls on.