Op-ed: Reintroduction of a non-resident commuter payroll tax makes no sense


New York State Assemblyman David Weprin’s bill for reintroduction of a non-resident commuter tax is an old, recycled idea periodically proposed by many others, missing the potential economic consequences that might occur after implementing it.

In today’s global economy, boundaries that end at the city line between NYC and the surrounding suburbs mean very little. We are all neighbors and thankfully there has never been a Berlin Wall between us. The United States is in economic competition against other nations. Within the USA, residents of the northeastern states compete against other state coalitions based in other regions. Our metropolitan New York area comprising NYC, Long Island, northeast New Jersey, Hudson Valley and parts of southwestern Connecticut are in competition against other metropolitan areas around the nation and world. I work in NYC. My wife and I travel around the five boroughs enjoying shopping, dining, going to the movies, visiting museums and taking advantage of the diverse neighborhoods.

Each weekday, several hundred thousand Long Island and other suburban residents travel to jobs in NYC — the economic engine of our metropolitan region. Many others enjoy sporting events, the theater, museums, restaurants and shopping. A growing number of NYC residents have become reverse commuters to jobs in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties along with New Jersey and Connecticut. Other NYC residents attend sporting events, shop, dine and visit other places on Long Island. It is naive to believe that NYC can survive economically in today’s ever-changing global economy without Long Island and the rest of metropolitan New York. The suburbs around the Big Apple are equally dependent on the success of NYC.

Residents of Long Island and NYC in the end have much in common. We should work together as neighbors and not adversaries. Reintroduction of a commuter tax on one set of non-residents could trigger an economic tariff war among neighbors. With the financial crises on Wall Street followed by our economic recession several years ago, thousands of commuters residing outside of NYC lost their jobs. These jobs have never come back. Between the downsizing of many Wall Street firms along with conversion of many offices and older buildings in the financial district into residential units, these loss of jobs have become permanent. As a result, the reintroduction of any non-resident commuter tax will not bring in the same level of revenue as was the case during the 1990s when it was last in place. It could result in a retaliatory commuter tax by Nassau County, other impacted suburban counties or neighboring states on NYC residents. At the end of the day, everyone could lose with implementation of any non-NYC resident commuter tax.