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Tolls, payroll tax in MTA bailout plan

December 4, 2008 4:21:39 PM PST
Drivers would pay to cross the East River and New York City-area companies would be taxed on their payrolls under a new plan to stanch financial bleeding at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.The Metropolitan Transportation Authority needs to close an estimated $1.4 billion deficit in its operating budget next year and a $3 billion deficit by 2012. The agency is legally required to balance its budget.

A state commission's proposal, released Thursday, calls for boosting MTA fare revenue by 8 percent - not the 23 percent previously proposed by the agency.

Under the state commission's plan, companies in a 12-county area would pay $330 in tax for every $100,000 they pay workers.

The MTA, a state agency, runs New York City's subways and public buses, the Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road, the Long Island Bus system and several bridges and tunnels.

However, the city-owned East River crossings are free.

It's unclear how any fare increase would be calculated across the transit system's various rates. They now range from $2 for a single bus or subway ride to $81 for an unlimited monthly pass.

Most fares went up in March, as did rates on the agency's commuter railroads and tolls on many of its bridges and tunnels.

The riders' advocacy group Straphangers Campaign could accept another small fare increase if it were coupled with a payroll tax or other new, ongoing source of transit money, group spokesman Gene Russianoff said.

But Greater New York Chamber of Commerce President Mark S. Jaffe said neither businesses nor commuters could afford to pay more for mass transit.

"Right now, people are suffering," said Jaffe, whose group has about 2,000 members.

TWU Local 100 Statement on Ravitch Commission Report
Statement by TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint on the Ravitch Commission Report, which was released Thursday.

"While we have not yet seen the Ravitch report, some of its reported elements are worthy of consideration.

"On the other hand, we understand that it also contains recommendations regarding the establishment of a regional bus company. Several years ago, the MTA attempted without success to gain regional bus legislation through the New York State legislature and through labor negotiations. Since then there have been no negotiations. Nor have we been consulted with or informed of this element of the report before today.

"Such a major step cannot be taken without appropriate scrutiny and without negotiations with the unions concerned. TWU will strongly and completely oppose any attempt to accomplish this through the backdoor."

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