Miele’s Musings: Not Too Soon to Think About Your Vote

BY PUBLISHER EMERITUS ARMAND MIELE

Rockland County citizens wake up! It’s not too early to think about election season. Which candidates are ready to practice fiscal responsibility and face our problems head-on? And which ones are probably just going to pass the buck again? Remember, you can’t go by words alone. You have to look back at actions.

Never forget the MTA tax, initiated more than 25 years ago. Rockland agreed to subsidize the subway fares in New York City, because we were told that Rockland would also get new mass transit. There was supposed to be one study to have trains going to Stewart Airport, opening up Rockland County to jobs and transportation to and from upstate, so that we would not have to depend on New York City. Later, when it became clear that Rockland was not getting its money’s worth from the MTA, there were two other studies done, at Rockland taxpayers’ cost, on whether we should take over our own trains. Even though the County Legislature voted twice to get out of the MTA, the bill stalled because County Executive Scott Vanderhoef never signed the bill to go to Albany. Instead, we got one bus to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The MTA tax has been costing us about $34 million a year for twenty years, for one bus that goes from Rockland to Westchester. The MTA takes a cut from all our sales taxes, utility bills, water, and telephone. The MTA takes a tax on every mortgage that gets recorded in Rockland. And Rockland County C-corporations pay the MTA 17 percent percent of their state income tax. All the MTA does for us is sign a lease with New Jersey Transit, which owns the tracks, stations and the trains.

This is the least fair tax in Rockland County, and we could have gotten out of it, but for the stalling of our elected officials. Remember it. Can you imagine us using this money to help pay the school taxes for needy homeowners, instead of wasting it on the MTA?

Next, remember the emission control tax we pay on every automobile registered in Rockland County. This law was initiated because of complaints about New York City’s air quality, yet they blamed only Rockland cars for coming in and polluting their air. What baloney! How about New Jersey, Orange County, and other New York-registered vehicles going into New York City? A study by our Health Department reported there was nothing wrong with the air quality in Rockland County. Can it be that all of our cars are in New York City? Get it—Rockland County always pays the expenses, because New York City can pass the buck to us.

Remember that Rockland County homeowners, 75 percent of whom have no children in school, pay all of our school taxes, some of the highest in the country. And guess who is subsidizing New York City Schools? That’s right: Rockland County taxpayers. New York City Schools get more state aid per student than we do, and it’s all from Rocklanders’ New York State income taxes.

Our legislators either don’t get it, or they don’t care. Not only do they fail to protect us from Albany and New York City taking advantage, but when the Rockland Legislature comes up short, instead of re-examining the budget, they just sock it to the taxpayers. They’ll tax us to pay back a $60 million emergency loan when they can’t meet a payroll raise. They’ll increase the sales tax by more than a full percentage point. They think we won’t notice, if it isn’t an election year. But now is the time to remember, and to think about how we’re going to vote.

Rockland voters, don’t be suckers. Don’t forget, when election time comes again! Remember what New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker said back in the 1920’s: “Will the voters remember in November what I did in May?”