Gianaris bill would tax the rich to fund MTA rescue plan

State Sen. Michael Gianaris introduces an MTA rescue plan that calls for a millionaire’s tax to fund upgades for to the transit system.
Courtesy Gianaris’ office
By Bill Parry

Hundreds of thousands of straphangers faced yet another MTA meltdown citywide Tuesday morning, enduring frustrating delays and service changes attributed to signal problems and other failures.

Affected lines included the A, B, C, D, E F, L, M and Z trains while riders on the 2 and 3 lines reported delays that led to dangerous crowding on platforms.

“These days, widespread subway breakdowns and disastrous morning commutes are the norm,” Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said. “A month after Governor Cuomo said he would take responsibility for fixing the subway, he hasn’t delivered a plan on how to improve service. Subway riders aren’t going to accept this sort of regular failure. We are fighting back, and we will hold the governor accountable for performance on #CuomosMTA.

“Does Governor Cuomo want to be the leader who let our state’s most basic infrastructure fall apart on his watch?”

Tuesday’s debacle follows weeks of chronic delays and historic failures throughout the MTA system involving the New York City subway and Long Island Rail Road.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) introduced his “Better Trains, Better Cities” legislation Tuesday, which would establish an emergency manager to oversee the maintenance and operation of MTA trains and create a temporary, dedicated revenue stream to fund urgent repairs. Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) will sponsor the bill in the lower house.

The proposal would create a temporary, three-year surcharge on personal income taxes for those in the MTA region earning more than $1 million annually, as well as on New York City hotel and motel taxes. It is estimated that the two surcharges combined would raise more than $2 billion annually, which would be dedicated exclusively to maintaining and upgrading the MTA system at the discretion of the emergency manager.

“The dismal state of our mass transit is as much of a crisis today as rampant crime was decades ago, and it requires the same attention and dedication of resources to solve,” Gianaris said. “My ‘Better Trains, Better Cities’ plan provides the focus and resources necessary to reduce the chronic delays and service interruptions plaguing our system and end the nightmare commuting has become for too many New Yorkers.”

Modeled on the successful “Safe Streets, Safe City” program that played a large role in reducing high crime rates in the 1990s, “Better Trains, Better Cities” would similarly create a temporary surge of dedicated revenue to deal with an ongoing crisis and help New Yorkers solve a serious problem caused by years of neglect and under-investment. Like Safe Streets, Safe City, the surcharges would expire at a certain time, in this case in three years.

“With a daily ridership of nearly 5.7 million people, the New York City subways are an integral component of our economy and New York state’s tourism industry.” O’Donnell said. “We have reached a transportation emergency, with over 70,000 delays in service every month, most of which affect already underserved communities. The economic impact is drastic, which made partnering with Senator Gianaris on this common sense solution a simple decision. An emergency manager approved by both houses of the Legislature would ensure that future funds are spent responsibly and equitably.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

More from Around New York