Numbers Game

Monday, March 30, 2009

With changes to the MTA and a new state budget, the fiscal landscape of both the city and the state have changed dramatically over the past few days. But what does it mean for your day-to-day? Karen DeWitt, Albany bureau chief for New York public radio, discusses the details of the budget proposal; and WNYC's Matthew Schuerman highlights the key changes to MTA fares and service.


Karen DeWitt and Matthew Schuerman

Comments [34]


Very true, Daniel. Makes no sense at all.

Mar. 30 2009 11:34 PM
Daniel from Queens

New Yorkers are apparently willing to withstand service cuts and fare increases in public transit but NOT congestion charges or bridge tolls for private cars. An outside observer would conclude that our goals were to encourage private car use and discourage pubic transit. Isn't that a bit absurd in the age of global warming?

Mar. 30 2009 11:14 PM

Increasing headways on subway trains to 30 minutes overnight is absurd. 20 minute headways are bad enough, especially since overnight trackwork and other factors often make the wait longer. If MTA board members and politicians had to wait half an hour on a subway platform, this proposal would instantly become a non-starter, as it rightly should.

Mar. 30 2009 05:56 PM
Robert Greenblatt

Has anyone considered the possibility of making the NYC transportation system an essential service like we do the Fire Department and Police Department and making it free to the public and funding it through City taxes.

Consider the following:
1. Raise the fare and the city workers will ask for higher wages to pay for the increase.
2. It would be a major tourist attraction and generate additional revenue for the city.
3. The entire City of New York will be open to industrial and commercial development. Hotels and tourist attractions developed through out the City.
4. The City congestion plan would be justified and pollution control a reality.
5. Eliminate the cost of fare handlers accountants and fare collection technology(fare cards, turnstiles, and computers).
6. Would the presence of more people on the subway and bus system reduce crime.
7. Reduce the need for taxis through out the City reducing gas consumption and the generation of subsequent pollution

I am sure there are many other cost benefits that could be identified as well as many negative concerns that would be identified after a comprehensive study and analysis is done. I just think the City should thing ouside the box and consider it.

Mar. 30 2009 12:40 PM
John from NJ

The BY State tax tables are here:

If you look, you can see that the apparent tax rates start at 4.025% (for singles) and eventually start increasing, indicating that the tax structure is marginal. However the rules change after 65k, and after 150K, you simply use a flat rate of 6.85%

Details here:

Since the top bracket starts at 20k, treating that as effectively 0 for high-wage earners isn't a bad approximation. That is, for most people in the 6-figure range, NYS tax is effectively NOT marginal. (Again, the new plan may change that; I'm not sure of the details.)

Mar. 30 2009 11:22 AM
hjs from 11211

i'm told yes

the government could stop that if they wish as they have with tobacco

Mar. 30 2009 11:12 AM
John from NJ

Lots of harmful things are legal.

Marijuana alters your mental state and makes you happier (generally speaking). That is what prohibitionists dislike. God forbid people make themselves happy with drugs...oh, unless you have clinical depression and get your meds from a big-pharma company.

And I agree that suburbanites that I know get their pot locally from respectable-seeming people. This is another problem with keeping it illegal: it forces otherwise law-abiding people to participate in a system - which they would otherwise never have anything to do with - which eventually leads to some nasty people.

Mar. 30 2009 11:04 AM
Phil M from New York City, NY

If pot was legalized, the consumer would know the strength of the purchase, much like one knows the proof of alcohol. This would decrease a number of problems, including the effect that a caller mentioned it has on mental illness. For if one could know the strength of the pot bought, one could moderate one's intake of THC.

Mar. 30 2009 11:00 AM
Phil Henshaw from NYC

If anyone's interested, I'm fairly sure the legalization question got to the top of the list by the way interest groups "stuff the ballot box" by organized group voting. If Barack actually wanted to know the top concerns of the online public he'd use one of the much better polling and statistical methods...

Mar. 30 2009 10:58 AM

My fear of legalization is that in our system today, marijuana providers would have the right to advertise--and it _is_ a potentially harmful drug.

One that I don't want to see taking up 11 pages of the Village Voice, as cigarette ads have in the past.

Mar. 30 2009 10:52 AM
Bob from Manhattan

They are getting it from someone who looks JUST LIKE YOU. Someone who drives their kids to school in an SUV, holds down a regular job and lives a normal life, but also knows someone who, for a living, buys pounds of grass and splits it up among a large group of affluent 40-somethings.

Mar. 30 2009 10:51 AM

Boomers don't have to go their kids. That would be idiotic.

All they have to do in this day and age is ask their friends.

Especially cancer patients.

Mar. 30 2009 10:50 AM
chris from Pittsburgh

"Unmarked Zipcar ..."

Thanks Brian! I hadn't thought of that. ;~>

Mar. 30 2009 10:49 AM
steve from queens

I support legalization and one of the arguments I often use is 'how many times have we seen people fight when they are drinking alcohol? Many. Smoking pot, never.' I just think marijuana smoke brings out a more cerebral side to us.

Mar. 30 2009 10:46 AM
Charles Alexander from Brooklyn

I'm pretty sure Brian Lehrer needs to correct a mistake he made repeatedly on air. Has he ever looked at a New York State tax table? If so, he has forgotten how marginal taxes rates work. I haven't seen the new proposal, but I feel sure that the new tax hike on the rich would work like any other tax bracket. The highest rate, with an additional 1%, would apply only to the excess income OVER $200,000. So a person making $200,000 would NOT pay an extra $2,000, as Brian kept saying. That person would merely pay an extra 1% on anything he or she made over $200,000. It makes a huge difference. Please correct the misstatement. Thank you.

Mar. 30 2009 10:45 AM
John from NJ

Non-smoker, tobacco, marijuana, other: legalize it. Stupid prohibition

Mar. 30 2009 10:43 AM
Mark F from Staten Island

Brian, your framing of the state budget's increase in income taxes, particularly the manner in which you report the increase, reminds me that you are not an unbiased interview/news show. Don't forget that a lot of the people affected will also be paying NYC taxes, and therefore will have a much higher effective income tax rate than in NJ. Why not report this effective tax rate? Why not report the percent increase in the taxes you're discussing, or at least mention it side-by-side with the absolute increase? Your bias is pretty clear.

By the way, I'm an honest college professor, so I clearly don't fall into the affected tax brackets...

Mar. 30 2009 10:38 AM
John from NJ

On the MTA, do they shorten trains too?

Mar. 30 2009 10:38 AM
John from NJ

I too thought the NY tax was marginal too.

Karen shouldn't be deciding what "rich" is. $200k for an individual after deductions is a lot of money, even in NYC.

Mar. 30 2009 10:36 AM
MikeInBrklyn from Brooklyn

There could have been service on the Eastside 10 years ago, if the MTA implemented trolleys. I can't image it would take very long to put down rails and run electric line to accommodate the cars.

Also, based on the calls, it is clear that the head of MTA are making decisions in their ivory towers, with little understanding of the real-world effects their will have. No wonder the system is bankrupt.

Mar. 30 2009 10:34 AM
Jim Jarvis from Metuchen, NJ

One has to question whether there are enough "rich" folks, making 500k a year, to come up with 4Bn. 2% of 500k is 10k. That means you need 40,000 taxpayers at that level, to make up the gap. I don't think that's realistic, either in NY or NJ.

The general social issue of marginal increases in upper middle class incomes, in order to subsidize mass transit is surely valid.

However, our politicians don't seem to understand that we are already the most highly taxed country in the world. Their quick comparisons with Europe's marginal tax rates are specious, in that they fail to consider the BENEFITS which europeans see from their taxes. For example, is university
tuition a tax? In Europe, it's largely free, for most students. Considering all income-leveling programs, we're already paying more than most, if not all nations.

Are we approaching the point where the goose has no more golden eggs?

Mar. 30 2009 10:32 AM
hjs from 11211

call your LAW MAKERS!

Mar. 30 2009 10:28 AM
Whoindatgarden from Brooklyn

Wish we New Yorkers felt there was a lot to loose. If we felt that way we would organize and boycott the MTA in a general strike by the consumers. We would use our community to share private cars to commute and not use the transit system for a day or more. We have to strike to get a transparent MTA and hold them accountable.
This is pure bad mgmt and they all are running a racket and people need to standup to their shenanigans.

Mar. 30 2009 10:27 AM
Janet from Westbury, NY

Is the taxation rate based on the gross income or the gross adjusted income?

Mar. 30 2009 10:27 AM
mel from brooklyn

I am SO glad Karen made the cost of living point (i.e. $200K makes you rich in Rochester, but not in NYC), which is rarely made in tax discussions. Why not make a greater percentage increase at an even higher level, i.e., keep the 2% increase at the $500K level but add something like a 4% increase at 1 or 2 million level? There may be fewer people at that level these days, but there are still plenty of them in NYC.

Mar. 30 2009 10:26 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Add the 10th AVE stop to the 7 line extension. Even in this economy, this sounds like an “ounce of prevention” sort of issue.
Don’t cut, but extend the G train. If the G stopped at 4th and 9th in Brooklyn (a stop it has to bypass to change direction anyway) it would be the only Brooklyn-Queens inter-borough train without passing through Manhattan. Easier access to Coney, Williamsburg, LaGuardia, and many other locations for millions outer borough residents.

Mar. 30 2009 10:26 AM
Janet from Montclair, NJ

Re the tax increases, I'm not a New Yorker so I can't be sure of this, but isn't this a graduated tax? If so, extra tax for a person who makes 200K will NOT be 2K. That person will be taxed 1% on whatever amount of the salary is over the highest amount in the previous bracker.

Mar. 30 2009 10:25 AM
Ron from NY

The issue is that we are only funding politicians to continue their extravagence. I would gladly pay more money to help the needy but that is not where it is going. It is going for $300M in member items and a 5,000 person staff for the State Senate, no show jobs for union bosses, and on and on. Will I leave: not immediately but it is one more brick in the wall.

Mar. 30 2009 10:24 AM
hjs from 11211

during a recession government spending SHOULD go up!

Mar. 30 2009 10:24 AM
Joseph DeMerit from Park Slope

Clarification: Brian keeps applying the tax percentage increase to the whole of a person's income (ie 2% of 200,000), but isn't NYS tax like the federal income tax in that the higher rates only apply to income above the rate cut off? I think it is called a marginal tax bracket?

Mar. 30 2009 10:24 AM
Victoria Gillen from Staten Island

"Buses are inefficient.." but they're really the only game in town, here in Staten Island. Bad choices? How about the 2d Ave Subway?

Mar. 30 2009 10:22 AM
Jennifer Bartlett from Brooklyn

Hi Brian,

Don't per cutting buses, people who use wheelchairs do not have the subway as an option and one must make an appointment to use access-a-ride.

Mar. 30 2009 10:20 AM
RLewis from The Bowery

Isn't the problem that we're putting too much money into all these upgrades that locals could care less about.

Stop extending the 7 line to the Javits Center.

Stop the 2nd Ave line... again. It should be further east anyway. Now it's too close to the 4,5,6.

Stop all these upgrades, and save the money to pay down the debt.

The system is supposed to be cheap, not a limo' service, so why can't we just go back to the way things were?

Mar. 30 2009 10:15 AM
Leo from Queens

Will any of our politicians be MAN ENOUGH and come clean with the NY taxpayers and straphangers and come clean on the fact that the MTA financial problems are due to huge debts and that the 'bailout' now is basically to make up the shortfall needed to service the debt and that no effort is being made to separate the debt from the operations of the MTA and that no effort is being made to pay down this debt which will prevent us from investing any money in transit upgrades or expansion.

Mar. 30 2009 10:10 AM

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