New York City

De Blasio: Tax millionaires to pay for NYC subway, bus fix

Praise & criticism for mayor's idea; Rich would pay 'just $7 a day'

August 7, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio described his proposal to fund repairs to New York City’s bus and subway system with a new tax on millionaires. Above, de Blasio fields questions from reporters at a Brooklyn Borough Hall press conference. To the left is NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Photo by Mary Frost
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On Monday, de Blasio described his plan to fund urgently-needed repairs to New York City’s bus and subway system and half-priced MetroCards for the working poor with a new, half percentage tax on millionaires.

Claiming that the state, which runs the MTA, has siphoned off a half billion dollars from the MTA’s budget, de Blasio said the system needed “sustainable revenue” and “fairness.”

“This is not just a subway crisis, this is a human crisis. And New Yorkers are experiencing this every day,” de Blasio said at a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall, where he was backed by elected officials, transit organizations and members of District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union.

The proposed tax, which would be levied on 32,000 city millionaires, could be used to leverage billions of dollars’ worth of bonds for capital improvements as well as funding half price MetroCards (known as “Fair Fares”) for 800,000 low-income city residents.

De Blasio said the money would go towards core infrastructure improvements like signal improvements, new cars and track maintenance.

A millionaire’s tax would support the MTA “so New Yorkers who typically travel first class pay so the rest of us can get around. It’s a matter of fairness,” de Blasio said, calling the increase “modest.”

The idea is similar to a proposal he backed in 2014 to fund universal pre-K which, while not approved in Albany, led to funding from the state. This proposal faces similar roadblocks.

The mayor’s proposal was immediately challenged by MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who wants the city to match state dollars immediately to fund an $836 million emergency repair plan.

“The good news is that Mayor de Blasio has acknowledged New York City’s significant ownership of the New York City Transit Authority and the fact that new funding is needed to modernize the subway system. The bad news is that the mayor has not acknowledged that the MTA needs funding today. You can’t delay an emergency plan to stop delays. The challenges the subways are facing today need immediate resources and solutions right now, not years from now,” Lhotoa said in a statement Monday morning.

The plan was also challenged by Citizens Budget Commission President Carol Kellermann, who said in a statement that the mayor’s proposal was not an “appropriate way” to raise revenue for the MTA, and that money to fund improvements should come from motorists via congestion pricing.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams backed de Blasio’s plan, and called for greater accountability over existing MTA funds.

“The state can no longer be permitted to raid the system’s coffers for extraneous projects,” he said in a statement. He called the millionaire’s tax “a sound revenue stream for funding future upgrades that improve straphangers’ daily commutes, while expanding access to public transportation for hundreds of thousands of our low-income neighbors who face barriers to economic opportunity because they cannot afford to ride a bus or train.”

Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer also said she supported the mayor’s proposal, even though “all the millionaires live in Manhattan.”

John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, also backed the proposal. He said in a statement, “Mayor de Blasio is right that we need a fair and sustainable source of revenue to fix public transit, and he is right that any long-term source of funds will require the approval of the governor and state legislature.” Raskin added, “It’s fair to ask the New Yorkers who benefit the most from our city’s prosperity to pay a little more to repair the infrastructure that the entire economy relies on.”

Transport Workers Union representatives, backing Lhota’s emergency repair plan, spoke out against the mayor’s proposal after the news conference.

Seven bucks a day

The tax would increase the city’s highest income tax rate by 0.534 percent, from 3.876 percent to 4.41 percent, on taxable incomes above $500,000 for individuals and above $1 million for couples.

In the mayor’s example, a family making one million dollars a year would pay an additional $2,700 annually in taxes, or $7 a day — an amount the mayor said would cover a mere half hour in a parking garage in midtown Manhattan.

The new tax would raise $700 million a year, eventually raising to $800 million. This money could be used to back a bond worth many billions to support capital projects in city buses, subways and the Staten Island Railroad, the mayor said.


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