In light of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) announcement this week that it is facing a $343 million budget shortfall, Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson), joining with local elected officials and business leaders, held a press conference to call for a formalized tax revolt to force a legal and political review of the agency’s mismanagement.
“The time for chatter is done, and I am willing to place my political career on the line to start a formalized tax revolt. We will replace pitchforks with online petitions, but the impact will be the same, and this gesture will be a wakeup call to the tax-and-spend crowd in Albany that we have reached our breaking point. Albany thinks folks in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess are rolling in dough, and the only things we are rolling in are bills and debt. The people of the Hudson Valley are golden geese being squeezed by a legislature that is hopelessly addicted to spending. We’re asking all those affected by this unconscionable tax to contact my office as we take steps as a community in crisis to place our MTA payroll tax checks into an escrow account. If they want our money they’ll have to come and get it,” said Ball, who has pushed to hold the MTA accountable as the first to call for the independent forensic audit.
As part of the 2009-10 State Budget, a payroll tax was instituted for the MTA at a rate of .34 cents per $100 of payroll on all employers, including non-profits, in the MTA’s 12-county service area. The MTA began collecting the tax earlier this fall, after it accepted a $1.8 billion bailout through legislation that gives legislative leaders the authority to conduct independent audits of the MTA (A.8180/S.55451) beginning in 2009 and every two years thereafter. Pursuant to the legislation, the MTA contracted for an audit 45 days after they began collection of the payroll tax and the Comptroller has stated that he will begin looking at the MTA’s finances, but Ball and local taxpayers contend that a formalized tax revolt will force an accounting for the criminal liability in the mismanagement of billions in taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, while Hudson Valley employers struggle with the payroll tax, residents are being hit twice more, with an increase in MTA fares (up from $2 to $2.25) and the Governor’s plan to increase driver’s license and license plate fees for those who can not commute via mass transit. The first phase of this plan went into affect in September with increased driver’s license fees and the second half was slated to take affect in April 2010; however, despite his pledge to rescind the plan during last month’s state budget deficit negotiations, the new license plates are still being printed and the plan has not been formally removed.