Temporary tax hike on millionaires should fund ‘rescue’ of city’s mass transit system: Queens lawmaker

Photo via Shutterstock

With constant delays, the dreaded “train traffic” and the impending shut down of the M and L lines, a Queens senator is proposing his version of an “MTA rescue plan” to secure a steady revenue stream for improvements.

The “Better Trains, Better Cities” legislation drew inspiration from the Safe Streets, Safe Cities program implemented in the 1990s to drive crime down. A dedicated tax was used to hire more police officers and keep schools open for after-school programs.

The legislation, which is also sponsored by Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, would create a temporary three-year surcharge on personal income tax for city residents making more than $1 million. New York City hotel and motel taxes would also increase by $5.

Gianaris said these taxes would raise more than $2 billion annually, which would be used to upgrade and maintain the MTA system. An emergency manager to oversee the maintenance of the system would also be appointed. The emergency manager would be appointed by the governor and confirmed separately by the Assembly and State Senate.

Before a confirmation vote is held, the candidate must present a “comprehensive plan of action.”

“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 in a statement. “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.”

In May, the MTA approved an amended capital plan that would add $2.8 billion to their five-year plan, bringing up the total investment to $29.5 billion. But the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit civic organization, argues that the increase is not sufficient.

According to their analysis, although the 2015-2019 capital plan will increase by 10 percent, only track and line structures will receive adequate funding.

Chart via 2015-2019 Capital Plan
Chart via 2015-2019 Capital Plan

The original capital plan dedicated $12.7 million for state of good repair and normal replacement commitments, while the new plan includes less than $12.4 billion.

All of the additional money will instead go to the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project to build a third track for the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville. Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway will also receive $700 million.

According to the MTA’s 20-year needs assessment, approximately $106 billion in “core asset investment” is needed over the next 20 years to “protect the vast and rich heritage of New York’s transportation infrastructure.”

More from Around New York