MTA Chief, Legislators Spar Over Paying for Transit With Payroll Tax
Monday, February 28, 2011 - 06:39 PM
MTA Chairman Jay Walder faced repeated questions at a hearing in Albany Monday from suburban legislators about a payroll tax that the state legislature approved in 2009 to bail out the agency. The tax applies to businesses in the 12 counties the MTA serves.
Why, the lawmakers wanted to know, should every worker in their district pay a tax for mass transit when many of their constituents don't use it?
"There's a movement here to eliminate that tax," said New York State Assemblyman Mike Spano, who represents Yonkers. He asked Walder how long it would take "phase out" the payroll tax: "five years? 10 years? Six years?"
Walder said he didn't see the tax as a short-term fix but a part of the MTA's permanent financing solution.
"I don't foresee a plan in any time frame in which you can phase out the payroll tax," he said.
Walder said the tax -- in which each employer in the effected counties pays one-third of one percent of its payroll to the state -- brings in $1.4 billion a year to the authority. That's 15 times the money saved by all of last year's service cuts.
Walder said the MTA wouldn't raise fares or cut service to meet its 2011 budget. But he wouldn't rule out adding more layoffs to the 1,700 workers laid off last year.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said that he is open to a "better way" of funding the MTA than by a payroll tax but has yet to propose an alternative.
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