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

10:52 AM EST on November 25, 2008

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 ... Anend to the political stalemate requires recognizing that both sides inthis debate have strong arguments. There is some truth to the belief ofNew York City residents that suburbanites use many city services andshould contribute something to the city in which they work. Commutersare also right in saying they already pay their share with purchasesthat boost sales taxes. In addition, their state taxes are divertedfrom the wealthy suburbs to the city.

So what common interestsdo the two groups share? The desire to preserve affordable masstransit, something that is in jeopardy given the MTA's huge budgetdeficit and its proposal to hike fares by 23%. The sensible compromiseis to adopt both the commuter tax and East River tolls and dedicate themoney to the MTA to hold down fare increases and fund a vitally neededcapital 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?

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