Crain’s: East River Bridge Tolls Should Complement Commuter Tax

On Sunday, the editors of Crain’s proposed that a reinstatement of the commuter tax, as called for by several local pols — including Sheldon Silver, who helped kill it in 1999 — should be considered in concert with, and not instead of, tolls on East River bridges. The editorial is behind the pay wall, so here is an excerpt:

Soaking suburbanites to reduce the burden on city residents is a political nonstarter … An
end to the political stalemate requires recognizing that both sides in
this debate have strong arguments. There is some truth to the belief of
New York City residents that suburbanites use many city services and
should contribute something to the city in which they work. Commuters
are also right in saying they already pay their share with purchases
that boost sales taxes. In addition, their state taxes are diverted
from the wealthy suburbs to the city.

So what common interests
do the two groups share? The desire to preserve affordable mass
transit, something that is in jeopardy given the MTA’s huge budget
deficit and its proposal to hike fares by 23%. The sensible compromise
is to adopt both the commuter tax and East River tolls and dedicate the
money to the MTA to hold down fare increases and fund a vitally needed
capital program.

Crain’s is right in that city-based politicians have nothing to lose by proposing a tax on those outside their districts, while asking nothing of their own car-commuting constituents who also benefit from a thriving mass transit system. But will any of them step up and recommend both?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “State taxes are diverted from the wealthy suburbs to the city.”

    NYC in fact pays far more into state coffers than it takes out, although it subsidizes Upstate to a lesser extent per capita than the suburbs.

    Moreover, most of the high-paid government jobs in NYC are held disproportionately by suburbanites. In past decades, many of the senior citizens who benefitted from NYC’s expensive Medicaid spending were the parents of suburbanites who did not care for them.

    And, the city must increasingly fund the public services required by lower-paid workers who work in the suburbs, but are not permitted to live there due to zoning rules that limit two-family homes and multiple dwellings.

  • A dedicated commuter tax combined with bridge tolls is the funding core of the proposal I posted in comments last week.

  • Commuters from Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut pay exorbitant amounts already for mass transit into the City.  Adding back a “commuter tax” will not solve anything – it will make out-of-city workers look for jobs closer to home.  If, however, you give those taxed the right to vote for or against the politicians proposing the tax, then, at least, the result could be fair.  Also, to be fair, all of the Manhattanites who decide to step out of the city onto Long Island, or to NJ or CT or Westchester, should be subject to an income tax from those particular jurisdictions.  

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