TAX ATTACK

BY DYLAN SKRILOFF

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wants to reinstate discriminatory 0.45% income tax on Rocklanders working in New York City

New York City taxman Scott Stringer, president of Manhattan Borough

At the behest of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, insular leaders in New York City have floated the idea of reinstating a long-repealed discriminatory tax against workers who live outside the five boroughs. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer put forth a proposal this week to reintroduce the so-called commuter tax; a 0.45% income tax on non-city residents who work in the city which was repealed in 1999.

The monies, Stringer said, will be put to the MTA’s coffers.

Rockland leaders reacted immediately to condemn the tax and remind the city that Rockland already pays more than its fair share in MTA taxes, not to mention tolls and many other taxes to visit New York City. It is estimated by repeated studies that Rocklanders pay $40-60 million more in taxes to the MTA system than they receive in services. Rocklanders who work in the city, already pay the city’s regular income tax, as well.

Town of Ramapo Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence blasted Stringer, saying, “Rockland residents already pay far more to the MTA than they get in return, and the inequity that presently exists is absolutely unacceptable. Reinstating the commuter tax would be a tremendous slap in the face to the people who are already paying significantly more than their fair share.”

He continued, “Instead of looking for a handout and attempting to balance its budget on the backs of the hard-working men and women who travel to work in New York City each day, the MTA would be better served by engaging in internal cost-cutting measures and proven budgetary practices that actually make fiscal sense. Instituting yet another tax on commuters cannot be the solution for the MTA’s budget woes.”

It is a fact that the MTA regularly has cost overruns on its projects that run into the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, but is usually not taken to task for it. Even Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken a compliant attitude toward the MTA, increasing their funding while trimming many other aspects of the state budget.

CEO and President of the Rockland Business Association Al Samuels also was outraged by the proposal. He said, “The James boys, the Daltons and the Youngers could all take lessons from the bandits in New York City. They are no better than highwaymen sticking up the weary traveller. New York City transit riders have to pay for their own rides. Suburbanites travelling into NYC (no matter what the reason) should not be suplementing the voting constituencies of NYC politicians.

“Nor should they be supplementing the commutation costs of city residents travelling to work at NYC-based businesses. Perhaps New York City should be forced to have a property tax rate more in line with those in the suburban areas. Maybe, then, there would be enough money for their commuters, their education system and everything else they want the rest of us to subsidize.”

State Senator David Carlucci also got in on the act. He said, “Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s proposal to revive the New York City commuter tax is an unfortunate and ill-conceived idea. This is an onerous tax that would negatively affect working families, many of whom commute to and from New York City every day. Reinstating this income tax would cost suburban residents across the state nearly half a percentage point out of their hard-earned money, or nearly $725 million annually, according to an article in today’s New York Times.”

Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun (R,C,I-Blooming Grove) joined the chorus of repudiation, “The MTA payroll tax requirement must be removed entirely from local municipalities, non-profits and hospitals. The ongoing added expenses from the payroll tax are eating away at our local economies and our taxpayers’ wallets. Additionally, we must not even entertain the thought of reinstating the New York City commuter tax, as it would place a costly and unfair burden on Hudson Valley residents who work in the city.”

Rockland County Legislator Ed Day called the proposal “ludicrous” and said if they can’t cut their budget the MTA and the city will have to look into creating tolls on bridges that cross the East River or raising subway fares which are still held artificially low.

Folks from New Jersey would also be affected by any commuter tax. Governor Chris Christie dismissed the idea as “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” He said, “I’m sure we’ll have conversations with Mayor Bloomberg and he’ll understand that those types of border wars are things that we should attempt to avoid because it doesn’t make any sense for New York’s economy.”