All that talk of rolling back some of the MTA's Doomsday budget may have been a bit premature. A judge has ruled that a payroll mobility tax introduced in 2009 to help the Authority is unconstitutional. And now the MTA says the decision could lead to "extreme" service cuts AND fare increases. Aren't you excited?
Judge R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. found that the tax on 12 New York counties that the MTA serves violated the home-rule provision (just like Bloomberg's outer borough livery cab plan!) and would only be legal with a two-thirds vote in the Legislature—which it didn't get. So he's nixed it. And what does that mean? That means the MTA, unless it can win on appeal, is suddenly about to be short an estimated $1.26 billion in funding. Because in addition to the payroll tax, the ruling would also eliminate the 50-cent taxi surcharge and 5 percent auto-rental tax, vehicle-registration and driver's-license fees that were also in the 2009 MTA bailout package.
"We will vigorously appeal today’s ruling," an MTA spokesman said of the ruling. "We believe this opinion will be overturned, since four prior challenges to the constitutionality of the law making the same argument have been dismissed." And if they can't do that, well, the Authority says it will be "forced to implement a combination of extreme service cuts and fare hikes."
And for what it's worth, Governor Andrew Cuomo says not to worry. "There won’t be any disruption in the MTA funding," he told reporters at the State Fair in Syracuse. "We believe the ruling is wrong, and we believe the ruling is going to be reversed."
Still, some outside the city were celebrating the news. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who helped push the suit through, is now reportedly trying to get the taxes already paid to the MTA back! The MTA "should find another way for efficiencies and cost-cuttings before they turn to the taxpayer or the rider," he said. And State Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos said, "We welcome this ruling, and the additional relief it will bring." Yeah... don't you feel relieved?