Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
The NYC Mayoral Transit Stakes Begin -- Stringer Backs Commuter Tax
Monday, April 16, 2012 - 09:00 PM
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the first likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate out of the box with a detailed plan for financing the city's transit system. It's a a mix of solutions -- but the gist is this, there should be more financing for transit, and not just from transit riders.
Instead, Stringer wants to bring back the commuter tax, killed by Albany over a decade ago, as well as take a fresh look at congestion charging, bridge tolls, and other sources of funds for transit.
All of the taxes and fees would require approval by state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo. In the past, leaders of both parties and Governor Cuomo have not supported congestion charging, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver brokered the deal that killed the commuter tax.
Stringer's proposals, to be delivered at a speech to the Association for Better New York Tuesday morning, now set a bar for the other candidates -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and former City Comptroller William Thompson.
Other than Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, transit funding has not been a big part of mayoral campaigns in the past. Stringer's speech is a sign that that there will be more discussion to come in the next 19 months.
Among his proposed solutions:
- Dedicate the NY 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, he suggests a number of possible funding sources.
- Bridge tolls, a la the 2010 Ravitch Plan.
- A congestion charge, a la the Sam Schwartz "Fair Plan"
- Letting the MTA borrow against increased property tax revenue that comes when new subway stations are built.
- A restoration of the commuter tax, which was repealed by the state legislature in 1999.
Stringer says he'd spend the money on more bus rapid transit, 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.