On June 28th the NYCTRC welcomed Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to hear more about his plan to provide sustained funding for NYCT’s operating and capital needs. The heart of his proposal is the creation of an capital infrastructure bank that would be funded by the existing mortgage recording tax (MRT)* that is currently dedicated to operational needs. These funds could then be leveraged to attract private dollars “to build out a five borough transportation plan that will benefit people from all over the region.” He noted that the MRT can vary substantially from year to year due to economic conditions and is therefore unreliable for operations funding. To replace the operating funds generated by the MRT he proposes to reintroduce a commuter tax (CT). He stated, “We have to take action on our own and stop depending on fare hikes and help from Albany.”
The previous NYC commuter tax was repealed in 1999 and used to go into the NYC’s General Fund. Pesident Stringer was very clear that funds generated by this tax must go into a “lock box” created for MTA use. Proposed to be .45% of income, the CT would be taken out with the personal income tax. President Stringer noted that he has received a lot of interest in this proposal, but all neighboring governors and many neighboring politicians are against this.
During the question and answer period, several points were brought up by Council members:
— Would the infrastructure bank funds be used for only projects in the five boroughs? “No, some of the funds could be devoted to the suburban needs.”
–Would some of this money be put toward more accessibility? “There are many needs, but the basic question is how we can meet any of them without the funding.”
–This presentation could be construed as as very negative to suburban residents. Would reverse commuters also pay a commuter tax? “No. People used to pay this tax, and no one objected.”
–If you talk about a commuter tax you have to talk about fairness. People want to commute east (on the LIRR) but can’t because of no third track. If you’re talking about restoring the commuter tax, you have to provide benefits for everyone. ” I don’t want to win an argument, I want to start a discussion. The only way we can build out a transportation system is to create an infrastructure bank.”
*The mortgage recording tax is a fee that gets paid every time property changes hands in the City and the seven country MTA region.