Today at the Joint Budget Hearing on Transportation, Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt (R,I,C-Greenwood Lake) questioned Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay H. Walder regarding the payroll tax and, specifically, the inequality of Orange and Rockland’s voting power on the MTA Board.
“As many of my colleagues from throughout the MTA’s 12-county service region pointed out, our constituents keep paying more but are getting less and less. The voice of Orange and Rockland residents is even further diminished by the inequality of our voting power on the MTA Board. I questioned Chairman Walder about this today because I believe this is further evidence that my constituents should no longer be impaired by the payroll tax,” said the assemblywoman, who has been leading the fight in the Hudson Valley against the MTA payroll tax and has recently enlisted the public to join the cause through her petition calling for an immediate forensic audit of the authority.
Orange and Rockland counties combined have roughly one-quarter of a vote on the authority’s board. Yet, all employers in the two counties are required to pay the payroll tax, which is 34 cents on each dollar of payroll.
According to Chairman Walder, the payroll tax contributes $1.4 billion in annual revenue to the MTA. He commented at today’s hearing that, without this revenue, the cuts to services throughout the 12-county region would be “devastating.” However, Assemblywoman Rabbitt and other lawmakers in attendance questioned the chairman about finding an alternative source for this funding as well as methods to “wean” the authority off the funds. While Chairman Walder stated that he has discussed these possibilities with the governor, he deflected answering these questions by reiterating the devastating impact the loss of the payroll tax revenue could have. For example, he stated that recent service cuts saved the authority $92 million; to offset a loss of the payroll tax, at $1.4 billion, he said 15 times these service cuts would need to be made. He also used the example that fares would need to be increased by 400 percent to make up for the loss of the payroll tax, if the tax were eliminated. Additionally, he refused to give his support for a forensic audit of the authority when questioned directly on the subject by lawmakers.
Assemblywoman Rabbitt stated, “As was pointed out today, less than 23 percent of Orange and Rockland residents are estimated to actually use the services provided by the MTA. These services are continually cut and reduced. At the same time, with the current economy, we are trying to do everything we can to help employers create jobs that our constituents need. The payroll tax punishes employers and encourages businesses to look elsewhere.”
“Clearly, the majority of my constituents can do without the services of the MTA, and I believe we should either have an equal voice on the board along with improved services or no longer be forced to pay this job-killing tax,” concluded the assemblywoman.
A video statement from Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt following today’s hearing can be found by clicking on the following link: