Manhattan Borough President Proposes Transit Tax

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a likely 2013 candidate for mayor, is out with his first big policy proposal — and it's to add a variety of taxes to fund transit.  In a speech to be delivered to the Association for a Better New York Tuesday morning, Stringer is proposing reviving the commuter tax, killed in 1999, to fund faster buses and a new subway line from Brooklyn to the Bronx.

Stringer also said he favors a new look at bridge tolls, or a congestion charge, a plan pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the past, but that foundered in Albany.

All of the taxes and fees would require approval by state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo. In the past, leaders of both parties and Governor Cuomo have not supported congestion charging, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver brokered the deal that killed the commuter tax.

Stringer's proposals,  now set a bar for the other potential candidates — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and former City Comptroller William Thompson. Quinn supported Mayor Bloomberg's quest for a commuter charge, but DeBlasio and Thompson opposed it.

Among Stringer's proposed solutions:

  • Dedicate the New York Mortgage Recording Tax, which currently funds transit operating expenses, to transit capital expenses. Stringer says the tax fluctuates too much to be a reliable source of year-to-year funds.
  • Instead, he wants to use the tax as the basis for a transit infrastructure fund, to draw in in union and other pension investments.
  • To replace the loss of the recording tax to the operating funds, Stringer suggests a number of possible funding sources. including the commuter tax, bridge tolls, and/or a congestion charge.

Stringer says he'd spend the money on more bus rapid transit lines, like the ones that run along First and Second Avenues, light rail on 42nd street, and connecting Red Hook Brooklyn to the Navy Yard, an AirTrain to LaGuardia and an "X" subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

The revenue plans sketched out in the past would cover operating expenses, but not major new subway lines.