Highlighting that the City of New York has lost over $4.95 billion in revenue since the repeal of the commuter tax in 1999, Senator Thomas K. Duane (D, WFP Manhattan) and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D, WFP Manhattan) today announced the introduction of legislation which will restore the New York City commuter tax.
Senator Duane said, "I was outraged in 1999 when both houses and both parties of the State Legislature decided to play a political game of chicken with one another in order to win a special State Senate election in Rockland County. The end result of that tragic game was the repeal of New York City's thirty-three year old commuter tax. The residents of New York City lost. Since that time I have been fighting to get this tax restored and I will not stop until I succeed."
Assemblymember Rosenthal noted, "Every day, commuters reap the benefits of New York City's services, whether it is our sanitation crews, street maintenance, or transit. Commuters have equal access to these services and the protection of New York City's finest and bravest, and yet it is the city residents who foot the bill. It is time to reinstate the commuter tax to ensure that all recipients of the city's service pay their fair share."
At the time of the repeal, proponents claimed that the City of New York had a $2 billion surplus and could afford to repeal the commuter tax. Yet at that time, no one could have foreseen the tragic events of September 11, 2001, nor that the city would be facing a declining economy and high unemployment. History shows that New York City's economy cyclically heats up and cools down even without tragedies, and the commuter tax provides a fair and stable source of revenue to fund vital city services.
"The sad fact is, nobody in Albany actually asked the City of New York if repealing the tax was fiscally sound," said Senator Duane, "it would be nice, not to mention fair, if the city actually had a say in their tax policies."
Senator Duane and Assemblymember Rosenthal released numbers showing that had the tax, (0.45% of wage earners income and 0.65% of the earnings of the self-employed), not been repealed on commuters it would have netted over $4.95 billion in the revenue for the city since 1999.
It is estimated that the median tax liability per commuter for the tax is $396 per year -- less than $1.50 per day.
Commuter taxes are not unusual in the United States. New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and many other states tax all personal income within its borders. Twenty-one of the largest cities in the United States have some form of income tax and, of these, twenty tax the income of nonresidents; fourteen of these cities tax residents at the same rate as nonresidents. In New York State, the city of Yonkers also has a commuter tax.
"Why is New York City one of the few large cities denied a commuter tax?," asked Senator Duane, "It makes no sense and it is why Assemblymember Rosenthal and I are introducing legislation to restore the tax. All New Yorkers need to pay their fair share."