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We’d cheer any decision that will save taxpayers a few bucks, but a decision by a Nassau County judge who ruled last week that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax was unconstitutional could have a negative impact on the entire metropolitan area.
In 2009, with the MTA facing financial disaster, the state Legislature passed a payroll tax in which employers would pay about 34 cents for every $100 of payroll. The tax only applies in the 12 counties the MTA serves.
And that’s the problem. A Nassau judge ruled that the tax is unconstitutional because it “does not serve a substantial state interest.”
In response to a lawsuit brought by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Judge Bruce Cozzens said such a tax must be imposed by a “special law” approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature.
If the ruling stands, the MTA, which has a $13 billion budget, says it will lose about $1.26 billion a year. It warned this will result in higher fares and dramatic cuts in service.
Imagine for a second the mess that will be created on the Long Island Expressway and Grand Central Parkway if even a small percentage of the commuters who use the LIRR decide it’s cheaper or more convenient to drive into the city.
Queens will pay a heavy price. Some workers with low-paying jobs may decide they can no longer afford to take the subway or bus to work.
In 2012, with the real threat of global warming, any decision that discourages the use of mass transit will hurt everyone.
Opponents of the tax argue that it is a “jobs killer.” We don’t believe there are any businesses that cut their payroll because of this tax.
The MTA has promised a “vigorous appeal.” The decision was made in the lowest of three state courts and the MTA can continue to collect the tax until the appeals process is finished.
Mangano and other opponents of the tax argue it unfairly burdens people who never use mass transit. The same shortsighted thinking could be applied to taxes used to build roads and schools.
Everyone in the metropolitan area benefits from an affordable and healthy mass transit system. This ruling should be overturned.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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