MTA's Lhota: Mayor's tax plan won't help subways now

- A fair fare with the help of millionaires. That is the newest plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to generate much-needed funding to fix the subways. But the MTA said that would be a long-term solution for a crisis that needs funding right now.

De Blasio took the subway to Brooklyn Borough Hall to propose a tax on city residents who make $500,000 or more a year. The goal would be to help fund a fair fare by providing half-price MetroCards for 800,000 New Yorkers living in poverty. This tax would also supply recurring revenue for the MTA.

"What would it mean for MTA," de Blasio said. "Well, to begin with, we believe this tax would raise $700 million a year."

Hours after de Blasio made the announcement, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota responded inside Penn Station.

"This has to get done now. We started now, what he's proposed today will not come in until next year," Lhota said. "I can't wait until next year to get paid… We've got to do this right now."

This disagreement over funding has been an ongoing battle between the mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"The governor and the mayor have a long-standing dispute about the general idea of a millionaire's tax and it dates back to the funding for universal pre-K. So Governor Cuomo thought that he had the mayor in a bind a little bit," Manhattan Institute's Alex Armlovich said. "It was kind of a Trump-like move. He's like 'I'm going to build up the MTA and we are going to make Mayor de Blasio pay for it. But the thing Mayor de Blasio loves raising taxes. So he calls that bluff, fairly straightforwardly. It turns out that this tax that Governor Cuomo does not want to implement, de Blasio is kind of throwing that back at him, basically calling his bluff."

The plan to fix the MTA will cost $836 million. Lhota said the state agreed to pay half and hopes the city will take the other half.

Armlovich said another tax is not the answer but added that the MTA must spend what it has more wisely.

"The MTA is actually behind on spending the dollars that are already in its bank account," Armlovich said. "Through the last budget period, it's only spent about, say, close to 50 percent what its track and switch work was scheduled to be. That's as of May 31st."

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