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High Cost of No Transit

Posted on 03 April 2010

We’re thrilled to see the anti-MTA payroll tax movement picking up steam here on the East End. Of all the insults taxpayers and residents of this part of the world have suffered in recent years, perhaps none makes our blood boil quite like this ridiculous payroll tax.

For the uninitiated, this is a tax that all employers must pay ($34 on every $1,000 in payroll) directly to the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), an entity that moves the commuters of New York City and its near suburbs on a daily basis, but which provides laughable service to the East End. This week, Southampton Town discussed joining a lawsuit filed recently against the MTA and its tax by William Schoolman, owner of the Classic Coach and Hampton Luxury Liner.

Schoolman’s anger at the tax is easy to understand. How would you feel if you were a business required, by law, to funnel money directly into the pockets of your competition? If one could even call the MTA Schoolman’s “competition.” With only four trains on a good day, it’s not as if the agency, recipient of billions in taxpayer money, provides even a fraction of the service the Luxury Liner is able to offer on the East End without public funding.

So spurred on by Schoolman’s lead, the Town of Southampton is now considering legal action either by joining Schoolman’s suit or initiating one of their own. Just for the record, Southampton Town (and therefore, taxpayers) have already shelled out $50,000 towards the payroll tax.

Though Governor Paterson recently unveiled amendments to the tax which, if approved, would reduce the liability to outlying areas, like ours, to $17 per $1,000 of payroll, we’d rather just see this tax go away altogether. In fact, why can’t we make the MTA go away as well? Maybe a lawsuit or two will bring the kind of momentum we could use in our favor to finally create the Peconic Bay Regional Transit Authority and take transportation (and ideally, transportation tax dollars) into our own hands.

In the face of financial woes in both towns and people here in dire need of jobs and benefits, the fact that the MTA feels we should give them a handout is absurd and insulting. Now that they’ve got our money, it’s clear from the MTA’s recent threat to discontinue weekend service to the North Fork that we can expect only less service from this entity in the future.

As a side note, the Suffolk County Legislature this week approved a bill introduced by legislator Jay Schneiderman to increase fares on county bus routes. The increase would go toward initiating Sunday bus service, which is currently not available, but vital to workers with no other viable source of transportation to their jobs (certainly not the MTA).

So we would like to take this opportunity to encourage Southampton Town to seriously look into its legal options against the MTA tax and we invite East Hampton, North Haven and Sag Harbor to consider it as well. Maybe Southampton Hospital, an organization that has struggled to support itself in recent years, should join the suit as well. The hospital has paid $150,000 toward the payroll tax so far. We somehow doubt that any hospital workers were able to commute to their jobs by MTA — and are left wondering how much extra they had to pay to get to work on Sundays because the county buses don’t run.

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One Response to “High Cost of No Transit”

  1. Gene Roemer says:

    The article “hits the nail on the head”. As everyone knows, our state legisature has been out of control for several years. It’s all about them. Reguardless of party. Tax and spend is what they do well… Well it is time to change ALL of them and force term limits.

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