Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt (R,C,I-Greenwood Lake) responded to published reports from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, regarding the lateness of Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) security improvements, by renewing her call that immediate action needs to be taken in terms of investigating the mismanagement of the agency.
“As the owner of a third-generation small business, I know firsthand how the MTA’s payroll tax has further complicated businesses’ ability to survive this economic recession. I find the Comptroller report extremely disturbing: we already knew that the MTA was being poorly managed financially and there were no real service improvements being made, but to learn that the security improvement project is years behind schedule and nearly half a billion dollars over budget shows this mismanagement is worse than anyone might have imagined,” said Assemblywoman Rabbitt, who has been staunchly opposed to the Payroll Tax imposed on all employers in the MTA’s 12-county service region.
The Assemblywoman continued, “To continue asking businesses to fund this agency is asking too much. The Payroll Tax should immediately be rescinded until this agency can get its act together and deliver the services they promised at an appropriate cost.”
The Comptroller’s report found that the MTA’s security improvement plan, created in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has fallen far behind schedule. In fact, the first phase of the project, said to increase security on the MTA’s “most vulnerable and heavily used assets,” is not projected to be completed until June 2012. Meanwhile, the original price tag of the project, at $591 million, has since grown to $833 million.
Earlier this month, the Comptroller also released a report showing that riders of MTA services had declined due to the increased unemployment in the area. Ridership of Metro-North trains dropped by 4.8 percent in the first 10 months of 2009, resulting in a loss of 3,000,000 riders than in the same time period in 2008. While the Comptroller stated that people don’t commute when they’re unemployed, Assemblywoman Rabbitt continues to ask how many jobs were lost due to the increased burden on employers from the Payroll Tax.
The Assemblywoman’s efforts have been reinforced by members of the state’s Congressional delegation, who earlier this week sent a letter to Governor Paterson calling for him to immediately rescind the Payroll Tax, in light of the hurtful effect the tax is having on New Yorkers. The letter details the fact that the MTA could use up to 10 percent of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for operating expenses, the first time since the 1970s that Congress has allowed federal funding to be used for operating expenses. For the MTA, this would provide an estimated $110 million to offset the Payroll Tax.
“We are just beginning to see the effects of this devastating Payroll Tax. Meanwhile, every day we hear another report about how the MTA is cutting services, losing riders and falling behind on taxpayer-funded projects. Rescinding this Payroll Tax is one of my top priorities, and I urge the Governor and my colleagues in the State Legislature to join me in taking action before even more jobs are lost,” stated the Assemblywoman.