Photo Courtesy of Edwin Torres/Mayoral Photography Office
“We are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra to help move or transit system into the 21st century,” Mayor de Blasio said.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday unveiled what he characterized as a progressive City tax proposal – levied on fewer than 1 percent of the city’s wealthiest tax filers – aimed at raising as much as $800 million annually for the Big Apple’s deteriorating subway and bus system.
The proposed tax adjustment would also allow the City to cut in half subway and bus fares paid by 800,000 low-income residents, de Blasio said.
The “Fair Fix” tax would increase the City’s highest income tax rate to 4.41 percent, from 3.876 percent, on taxable incomes above $500,000 for individuals, and above $1 million for couples. The tax, according to the administration, will be paid by an estimated 32,000 NYC tax filers – 0.8 percent of Gotham’s filers.
“Rather than sending the bill to working families and subway and bus riders already feeling the pressure of rising fares and bad service, we are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra to help move or transit system into the 21st century,” de Blasio added. “Instead of searching for a quick-fix that doesn’t exist, or simply forking over more and more of our tax dollars every year, we have come up with a fair way to finance immediate and long-term transit improvement and to better hold the State accountable for the system’s performance. Our subways and buses are the veins that make life in the greatest city in the world possible. This fair funding source will provide immediate help to straphangers – and it will help New Yorkers get around our city reliably for the next generation and beyond.”
The City said the proposed tax is projected to raise $700 million in 2018, before rising to $820 million a year by 2022. The new investment will add on to an annual $1.6 billion in City operational support for subways and buses, and a $2.5 billion commitment in 2015 to the long-term needs of the MTA.
The $500 million in revenue dedicated to modernizing the aging subways and buses could support borrowing up to $8 billion for capital upgrades. The mayor indicated that he believes this funding should be immediately directed toward core infrastructure issues like signal improvements, new cars, and track maintenance key to reducing delays and disruptions that have paralyzed the system in recent months.
Half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers will be financed by an expected $250 million of the revenue raised by the “Fair Fix” tax, according to the administration. As many as 800,000 New Yorkers are expected to qualify for half-priced MetroCards based on their income levels.
“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,” said MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, de Blasio’s GOP opponent in the 2013 mayoral race. “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.”
The Riders Alliance, a leading commuter advocacy group, praised de Blasio’s proposal, and echoed the sentiment that system accountability originates and terminates in Albany.
“Any real path to a solution will require Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers to stand up for riders and establish a sustainable funding source for the MTA,” said RA Executive Director John Raskin.