Mil­lion­aires’ tax mulled to fix NYC tran­sit woes

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

NEW YORK: Mayor Bill de Bla­sio, flanked Mon­day by com­mu­nity ac­tivists, la­bor lead­ers and fel­low Demo­cratic politi­cians, of­fi­cially rolled out a pro­posal for a mil­lion­aires’ tax to help fix the sub­ways and aid low-in­come com­muters. “Peo­ple do not want to see this mad­ness con­tinue,” de Bla­sio de­clared, cit­ing peo­ple getting work rep­ri­mands, pick­ing their kids up late and miss­ing doc­tor ap­point­ments be­cause of sub­way de­lays.

Henry Gar­rido, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Dis­trict Coun­cil 37, the mu­nic­i­pal la­bor union, said that some­times even the peo­ple tasked with fix­ing the sub­way can’t get to work on time. The num­ber of sub­way de­lays has tripled in the past five years to 70,000 per month, and trains are over­crowded on some lines. About 5.7 mil­lion peo­ple take the sub­way on an av­er­age work day.

At the mayor’s press con­fer­ence, speak­ers stressed that the tax would af­fect only a hand­ful of tax­pay­ers - an es­ti­mated 30,000 to 35,000 - all of them in New York City. The tax, which would gen­er­ate about $800 mil­lion an­nu­ally, would in­crease the top in­come tax rate from about 3.9 per­cent to 4.4 per­cent for mar­ried cou­ples who make more than $1 mil­lion and in­di­vid­u­als mak­ing more than $500,000. In turn, they said, the im­prove­ments would fuel the econ­omy, ben­e­fit­ing rich and poor alike.

The pro­posal in­cludes $250 mil­lion for half-priced Metrocards for 800,000 New York­ers at or be­low the poverty level. The tax, spear­headed in Al­bany by Demo­cratic state Sen. Michael Gia­naris of Queens and Assem­bly­man Daniel O’Don­nell of Man­hat­tan, must be ap­proved by state law­mak­ers. It faces sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges. Cuomo and the Repub­li­cans who con­trol the state Se­nate have strongly re­sisted ef­forts to raise taxes on the wealthy in re­cent years. Assem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Demo­crat, has re­peat­edly pro­posed higher taxes on mil­lion­aires to no avail.

The of­ten frosty re­la­tion­ship be­tween de Bla­sio and the Se­nate’s Re­pub­li­can lead­ers won’t help. “I’m pleased Mayor de Bla­sio rec­og­nizes that ad­di­tional funds con­trib­uted by the city would fur­ther that goal, but rais­ing taxes is not the an­swer,” said Se­nate leader John Flana­gan, a Long Is­land Re­pub­li­can. Flana­gan added that the city has a $4.2 bil­lion sur­plus, “and there­fore has the abil­ity to do so with ex­ist­ing re­sources. Mayor de Bla­sio doesn’t need to reach into the wal­lets of city res­i­dents to make that hap­pen.”

Gia­naris said op­po­nents “may pos­ture in the be­gin­ning,” he but pre­dicted they’ll come around. O’Don­nell agreed. “Pub­lic sen­ti­ment ... drives a lot of this. The pub­lic is pay­ing at­ten­tion to what the MTA is, who runs it ... and what they’re do­ing with the money.” And the mayor’s pro­posal doesn’t ad­dress the need for emer­gency fund­ing to fix the ail­ing sys­tem, tran­sit of­fi­cials and the gover­nor said. Joseph Llota, chair­man of the Metropoli­tan Trans­porta­tion Author­ity, re­cently un­veiled an emer­gency plan to sta­bi­lize the sys­tem at a cost of about $836 mil­lion. The gover­nor of­fered to split the cost of the plan with the city, but the mayor re­fused to com­mit money to sup­port it.

NEW YORK: New York Mayor Bill de Bla­sio speaks at a rally where he an­nounces a plan to fund MTA im­prove­ments on Mon­day. —AP

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