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Commuter Tax

WNYC News

Dinkins Offers Unsolicited Advice to de Blasio

Monday, November 25, 2013

WNYC

After making education the cornerstone of his successful campaign, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was greeted by a standing ovation Monday at a Columbia University summit on the future of the city’s children. The room was filled with educators, advocates and policy-makers, including former Mayor David Dinkins, who de Blasio thanked for launching his career.

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Transportation Nation

Fiscal Cliff Legislation Equalizes Transit Tax Benefit

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

LIRR commuters (photo by @MSG via flickr)

After a year of lobbying, transit advocates finally won.

As part of legislation passed Tuesday, pre-tax benefits for transit are now on par with parking benefits. Individuals who get commuter benefits from their employers can now look forward to (about) $240 a month. The measure is particularly meaningful to suburban commuters, who can easily spend more than that amount on transit.

Note section 203.

The back story: on December 31, 2011, legislation equalizing transit benefits expired. So for 2012, transit riders received a $125 monthly benefit, although parking remained at $240--a thorn in the side for politicians from transit-dependent states. Last March, New York Senator Charles Schumer authored legislation to re-equalize the benefit, but it wasn't acted on until the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Transit advocates hailed the legislation. "We've been pushing for transit equity for months," said Rob Healy, vice president of the American Public Transportation Association. "From our perspective, we felt it was very, very important that the federal tax code not bias one mode versus another." He added: "You shouldn’t be making your choices based on a tax code which treats parking better than it does transit."

Veronica Vanterpool, the head of the Tri State Transportation Campaign, which advocates for transit riders in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, said  when the benefit expired, "it was a de-facto tax increase for transit commuters. It's ludicrous that Congress would incentivize driving over public transportation. So we are particularly pleased that this was restored...we know a lot of our region's senators have really pushed for that."

Vanterpool said about 700,000 people in the tri-state region take advantage of the benefit. And: it's retroactive to January 1, 2012, although the mechanism for calculating those past benefits hasn't yet been determined.

But the current benefit also expires at the end of 2013 -- meaning transit advocates must begin spooling up again.

“It is our hope that in the new Congress, legislation will pass to make the public transit commuter benefit parity permanent,” said APTA president Michael Melaniphy. Vanterpool echoed that sentiment. "Moving forward," she said, "we need to make sure this is a permanent restoration and that we're not dealing with this battle every year."

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Stringer Puts Transit on the Mayoral Map, But Backs off Support of Congestion Charging

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

LIRR commuters (photo by @MSG via flickr)

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer -- a likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate -- put transit squarely in the middle of the 2013 debate Tuesday by proposing a reinstatement of the commuter tax and an infrastructure bank to fund long term capital projects, including more rapid buses in the outer boroughs and a subway from Brooklyn to the Bronx.

"I believe we need to get back to an era in which public transportation is acknowledged as an essential civil responsibility," Stringer said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York.  "Right alongside public safety and education."

Stringer wants to re-jigger the way capital construction is financed, setting up an infrastructure bank seeded by the NY Mortgage recording tax, which now funds transit operations.

But to do that, he needs a replacement source of funds for transit operations, and he's looking to the restored commuter tax to supply more than $700 million a year to do that.

Still,  the fate of the commuter tax, which would be borne exclusively by suburbanites, is cloudy at best, and it's already being blasted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who's calling it "penny-wise and pound-foolish."

And in supporting the commuter tax, Stringer is backing away from his previous support of congestion charging. The commuter tax would only affect suburbanites, who won't vote for the next mayor, while a congestion charge would hit some city residents.

The commuter tax -- a 0.45 percent surcharge on income -- died in 1999 when Democratic Assembly member Sheldon Silver brokered a deal to eliminate the tax in order to help a Democrat win a special Senate election in Orange County. The Democrat lost. The tax was detested by suburbanites.

But Stringer says he thinks he can get it passed. "Every Mayor, when they get elected, gets one big ticket from Albany," Stringer said in a question-and-answer session after Tuesday's speech. " Mayor Bloomberg got mayoral control of the school system. Other mayors came up and asked for something from Albany that can change the discourse in this city. I believe the next mayor can go to Albany, rearrange the commuter tax, build a partnership with suburban elected officials, and finally finally finally get this transit system on sound footing because this is not just a New York City issue, it’s a regional issue. And if we flounder, we could take our economy with us, and that’s the argument we have to make."

In 2008, a congestion charging plan backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed the New York City Council, but died in the legislature, where it found little support.

Congestion charging is “our last best chance to reduce the number of cars and trucks on our streets, lessen the business costs associated with congestion, reduce asthma rates, build new mass transit, and prepare New York City for another million residents," Stringer testified in 2008.

But Stringer stopped short of endorsing the latest congestion charging plan -- Sam Schwartz's  "Fair Plan" -- which would charge drivers entering Manhattan while  lowering some other tolls around the city. Stringer said that was an idea that deserves "discussion." His prepared remarks said "serious consideration."

When questioned after the speech, Stringer said "I am supporting my plan...I’m not endorsing the Sam Schwartz plan. I’m not endorsing those ideas today, but I wanted to say to people, elected officials, potential candidates, why don’t we dig in and have a real discussion and not be afraid to talk about new ideas?"

Stringer's press people were also quite clear that Stringer does not favor congestion charging -- although he doesn't not support it either.

The MTA stopped short of supporting Stringer's call for a commuter tax, but spokesman Adam Lisberg said "we're glad that he’s started this conversation about how to get more funding for the MTA, because the MTA needs money."

Neither the congestion charge nor the commuter tax have much support in Albany. Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about the congestion charge while campaigning for Governor, called it " moot." He's shown a distinct distaste for taxes -- especially dedicated transit taxes -- this year eliminating a dedicated tax surcharge for the MTA paid by suburbanites.

In supporting a commuter tax over the congestion charge, Stringer is hewing a politically less treacherous route -- he's not pushing for a tax or a toll that some outer borough residents detest. No constituents of Stringers, should he be elected mayor, would be affected by the commuter tax.

Of the other 2013 candidates for Mayor, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn helped steer the congestion charge through the city council -- where Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio, then a council member, voted against it. City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a 2009 mayoral candidate, opposed congestion charging, but supported more expensive registration fees for heavier cars.

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, before he withdrew from the 2009 Mayor's race, supported congestion charging -- but only for people who didn't live in New York.

In 2005, no Democratic candidates for mayor supported congestion charging.  I know, because I asked them about it during the primary debate.

 

 

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WNYC News

Manhattan Borough President Proposes Transit Tax

Monday, April 16, 2012

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.

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Transportation Nation

The NYC Mayoral Transit Stakes Begin -- Stringer Backs Commuter Tax

Monday, April 16, 2012

Scott Stringer (phtoo: Stringer2013.com)

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.

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WNYC News

Payroll Tax Agreement Leaves Transit Tax Behind

Friday, February 17, 2012

Commuters had high hopes that Congress would restore the full federal transit tax benefit, cut late last year, as part of the massive payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits bill passed today. But it didn’t happen Friday. 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Mica's District Decision, Toronto's Transit Plans, GPS Units Talking to Insurance Companies

Friday, February 10, 2012

Top stories on TN:
GOP House Works to Undo Reagan Legacy on Transportation (link)
Port Authority Pushes Back on Scathing Audit, But Acknowledges Need for Reform (link)
New York State Makes It Easier for Vets to Get Commercial Drivers Licenses (link)
Poll: Sixty Percent Think Stickers on Cars are Okay (link)
European Cities Allowing Bikes to Run Red Lights (link)
After Red Light Cameras Are Turned Off, Houston City Council Approves Big Settlement With Vendor (link)

(photo by miss604 via flickr)

Port Authority audit and the governors: reality check. "Little about this political bill of indictment seemed properly hinged to reality." (New York Times)

The Senate's transportation bill restores the commuter tax benefit. (The Hill)

An internal review finds no conflicts of interest but cites shortcomings in the State Department's environmental review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project. (Los Angeles Times)

In the U.K., GPS units are communicating with car insurance companies to monitor driver behavior. (Marketplace)

A reclaimed Los Angeles bus yard begins life as urban wetland. (Los Angeles Times)

Toronto's city council voted for light rail over the mayor's subway transit plan... (National Post)

...but the mayor's not ready to give up just yet. (Toronto Star)

D.C. no longer requires parallel parking skills on its driving test. (Washington Examiner)

Congressman John Mica -- the head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee -- will announce what district he's running in today. (St. Augustine Record)

And: TN is #10 in a list of top 25 transportation twitter feeds. (UrbanLand)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: GM Reinforces Volt Battery, Queens Convention Center Builder Wants Swift Subway Link, Buenos Aires Doubles Subway Fares

Friday, January 06, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Getting Around the Bay in 2012 Just Got Harder and More Expensive (Link)
Now He Can Say It: Walder Calls NY’s Infrastructure “Terrible” (Link)
Filling in the Blanks Of New York’s Infrastructure Plan (Link)

Buenos Aires subway (photo by posterboy2007 via Flickr)

GM is reinforcing the Volt battery with extra steel. (Detroit Free Press)

The company behind a proposal to build a new convention center in Queens said it will work with New York's MTA to fund uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan and the proposed convention center. (Wall Street Journal)

Buenos Aires is doubling subway fares after Argentina handed control of the system to the city--and decreased subsidies. (Bloomberg News via San Francisco Chronicle)

The feds have given final approval for a $1.7 billion transit line along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. (AP via Sacramento Bee)

Freakonomics quorum: can Amtrak ever be profitable? Discuss. (Link)

RadioBoston kicks around solutions to prevent Boston's transit service from being slashed. Two words: congestion pricing. Other ideas: quasi-privatization, automatizing trains, and implementing zone fares. Read the comments section for even more. (WBUR)

NY Senator Charles Schumer wants the commuter tax credit back. (Staten Island Advance)

Yet another rescuer tries to save Seattle's historic Kalakala ferry. But: "It may have looked cool, but it was hard to maneuver and kept running into things." (NPR)

Ron Paul video from 2009: "By subsidizing highways and destroying mass transit, we ended up with this monstrosity."(Streetsblog)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Public Transit Tax Benefit Cut, New Trucking Rules, & NYC's Taxi of Tomorrow Threatened by Livery Bill Of Today

Friday, December 23, 2011

Top stories on TN:
FAA Clears Santa’s Flight Path (Link)
DC Dangles Cash to Fight Congestion (Link)
Just How Good Are the TSA’s Body Scanners? (Link)
Tips for Infrequent Flyers: Leave the Olives at Home, and Junior’s Shoes On (Link)
Despite a Year of High-Profile Crashes, Inter City Bus Use Soars (Link)

(photo by Kate Hinds)

Commute by public transit? Your tax benefit is being reduced. Drive? You're getting a parking benefit increase. (Chicago Tribune)

Volkswagen's will limit employees' access to work email in an attempt to give them a break during non-work hours. (Marketplace)

An oil spill near the coast of Nigeria is likely the worst to hit those waters in a decade. (AP via NPR)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's requirement that NYC's entire taxi and livery fleet eventually become wheelchair-accessible is a stinging rejection of the mayor's non-accessible Taxi of Tomorrow. (Crain's New York Business)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he won't back a proposal to prohibit drivers from talking on cellphones -- giving a boost to car makers and mobile-phone companies that stand to lose if regulators impose a ban. (Wall Street Journal; subscription)

President Barack Obama’s administration maintained an 11-hour limit on truck drivers’ hours today, scaling back a proposal to give them more rest... (Bloomberg)

...But some rules for drivers have changed. Learn more about the new regulations in Politico MT.

Can Amtrak afford to leave Penn Station for its new home in Moynihan Station? (Atlantic Cities)

Take a peek inside lower Manhattan's Fulton Transit Center, which is scheduled to open in 2014. (DNAInfo)

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Azi Paybarah

Candidate Says Albany Needs More Active Oversight Committee

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WNYC

Anna Lewis is out with a statement explaining how she'd fix the state's budget if she were elected to the state senate -- she'd adjust the taxes levied against co-ops with cheaper taxes levied against condos. There's the obligatory call to reinstate the commuter tax -- which hardly seems like it'll garner support outside the five boroughs.

Lewis said the State Senate needs a more active investigate body to audit the legislature and public programs. Lewis, it should be noted, once worked as the lead attorney to the Assembly's Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee.

"The problem that exists in the Senate is that while it has an investigative committee, it isn’t active enough in oversight, and must be strengthened," Lewis said. "It is essential that we more acutely scrutinize how the Senate spends our money, and I have the will to do so."

Lewis is one of six five Democrats running for the State Senate seat in Northern Manhattan being vacated by Eric Schneiderman, who is running for attorney general.

Other candidates include Adriano Espaillat, the local Assemblyman whom Schneiderman has endorsed; Mark Levine, a district leader, teacher and founder of the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan.

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