NY Tax Reform Bill Could Hurt Transit Riders

The W Train (RIP)

The W train was cut during MTA's service reductions in 2010. Photo: Heath Brandon.

The tax reform bill currently moving through Albany includes several provisions that could hurt transit riders.

First, the bill would whittle down the payroll tax that currently helps fund the MTA – under the terms of the bill, private schools don’t pay the MTA payroll tax and small business’ rates are lowered. This would reduce MTA revenues by up to $320 million, according to some estimates, if promised reimbursements from the state don’t come through.  Given that the service cuts that went through in 2010 saved the agency less than $100 million, it’s easy to understand the potential ramifications of such a cut. The New York Times‘ Clyde Haberman has more.

Second, buried in the bill is the nullification of “transit lockbox” legislation that was supposed to protect transit funds from being swept for other purposes. The TSTC and dozens of other advocacy groups joined together to express their disappointment in Albany’s recent tack:

The original [lockbox] legislation made it more difficult for the governor to unilaterally divert MTA dedicated transit funds, and required an impact statement detailing the effects on transit service if dedicated funds were taken. The “lockbox” bill (S.4257C/A. 6766C) was a reaction to the diversion of $260 million in dedicated transit funds over the last three years. These diversions contributed to the worst metropolitan-area transit service cuts in memory.

Third, the tax package reportedly sets up a state infrastructure bank for public private partnerships (though few details are available in the bill). Such “PPPs” have been widely reported as a method of paying for the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. But to the surprise and disappointment of local officials and civic organizations, Governor Cuomo eliminated public transportation from that project in October. Groups have been working to get the bus rapid transit back into place.

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