Mayoral Candidate Lhota Pushes For Commuter Tax Redux

Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota—the former MTA commish, Brooklyn Heights resident and BHB Ten 2012 member—believes it’s time to bring back New York City’s commuter tax, which asks for a few bucks from those who work in the city but live elsewhere.

In the 1990s, the tax contributed hundreds of millions of dollars into city services until it was stripped in 1999 by state Legislature—over strong objections by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (for whom Lhota served as a top aide).

“A lot of people who live outside New York are protected every day by the police department and fire department and emergency services,” Lhota says. “There needs to be a way to have that discussion.”

Proponents say the commuter tax should be used to fund mass transit—Lhota is, of course, former chairman of the MTA—however, various news sources confirm that while it is popular within NYC… not so much in such outlying areas as Long Island, Westchester County and New Jersey.

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, offered a commuter-tax plan last year, and said it could generate $725 million a year for the city. Also in support of the commuter tax return: City Council Speaker & Democratic Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

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  • Knight

    Sounds great in principle. Should we tax tourists, too, for protecting them? What about the NYers who work in NJ? Should they have their NY tax reduced because they are protected by NJ part of their day? It’s a ridiculous idea that has already been through the courts. Why resurrect it?

  • DIBS

    Typical of most politicians’ inability to understand the problem, all the way to the top in Washington…IT’S THE SPENDING THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

  • bagel boy

    The City should definately bring back the income tax on commuters. The Long Islanders and Westchester people use our roads, police, fire, sanitation, libraries and lots more. Thier local property tax assessors should give them a rebate for the NYC tax if they are so worried about the cost. God knows we all pay the 3.5% percent NYC income tax .. Why should we support thier lifestyle, provide them with government resources while they dont give a penny to support NYC. Time for them to pay up.

  • bagel boy

    you are so wrong. If you work in NJ, you DO pay NJ Tax. Just like a NJ resident pays NY State tax if they work here. For NYC, only residents pay the income tax. The playing field should be leveled and they should pay NYC tax too.

  • Jorale-man

    I favor the idea of congestion pricing, which has been floated in the past but never took hold. It has had a good deal of success in London in terms of reducing congestion and raising funds for the city’s mass transport system. While I have my doubts about Lhota as a mayoral candidate I hope that he can bring some of these issues to the table at least as the campaign gets going.

  • rona

    Perhaps Lhota should look up “No taxation without representation”! He cannot tax commuters unless they can vote for him. His flimsy desperate excuse for this “tax” is ridiculous. So, following his logic, will he tax tourists? Will he tax all the New York City residents who flock to the Hamptons May, June, July, and September? They all use services they don’t pay for – by this logic. I would also suggest that before Lhota make desperate attempts at trying to fund the MTA, perhaps he / the MTA should finally, once and for all, open their eyes, and try operating the MTA as a business: almost every day there is a new scandal in the news involving MTA employee theft. There would never be a need for additional bogus taxes or constant fare increases if the MTA would simply do their jobs, monitor their employees and stop the nonsense. Stop looking elsewhere to fund the constant theft and mistakes at the MTA!

  • bagel boy

    I know someone that lives in NYC and works in NJ and pays tax in NJ. That person cant vote for Chris Christie !!! Your statement totally baseless .
    Tax the commuters that work in NY. If they dont like it, then stay in NJ or CT. Out of staters take up valuable jobs in NYC that would otherwise be filled with NY residents. We would lower unemployment of NY residents, reduce NY welfare and keep all the tax money at home.

  • quinn raymond

    The commuter tax was crucial revenue for our city, but unfortunately it is controlled by the state. Thus as mayor he would not in a position to change it.

    It drives me insane when local candidates demagogue issues beyond their control.

  • David Rodriguez

    Ok Here is my stake in it. If I live in Rockland County and you want commuters to pay working in New York City to fund Mass transit then fine by me. As long as you eliminate the six separate MTA taxes that we here in Rockland County have to pay for even though we do not have any MTA service. The six taxes are as follows: 1) The payroll tax of 0.33%. 2) the 0.25% sales tax, 3) the phone tax (both mobile and land), 4) real estate transfer tax, 5) corporate franchise surcharge and 6)petroleum tax. Therefore you are happy that you get more money for your transit system and I do not have to pay any money for a transit system that I do not use!

  • rona

    Commuters pay their own “taxes”- they pay overpriced fares to the MTA (i.e. the the Long Islanders pay for the LIRR), and Long Island is part of New York State. Westchester residents pay for Metro North. Westchester is part of New York State. By the way, where would New York City’s economy be if all the commuters worked elsewhere? Your statement is inane. Yeah right, if the commuters work elsewhere, “that” will solve welfare in New York City? ha ha ha. Lhota should clean up his own backyard before trying to impose taxes on commuters for his problems. He did a lousy job of running the MTA (for a few months, by the way) and now he thinks he is capable of running the city? He is a joke.

  • Mr. Crusty

    An endorsement for Democrats if ever I heard one.

  • Knight

    Absolutely nothing that I posted above was wrong. Did you actually read my post before you criticized it? I did not say that NY residents pay no NJ tax; I simply asked if their NY tax should be reduced because they did.

  • Knight

    I vote by the candidate’s credentials and his/her stand on issues that matter to me, regardless of which party he/she is affiliated.

  • Gerry

    @ Knight – Good for you here we vote GOP every time!

  • DIBS

    I’m a Republican and your just as bad as those who vote a straight Democratic ticket.

  • e.p.c.

    We could eliminate all state support for the MTA, relying entirely on fares to fund it. The average subway fare would be $7-$10 and the typical LIRR fare would double or even triple, but the MTA would then have a dedicated source of funding.

    Regrettably if we did this the State would likely find yet another way to pick the pockets of the MTA (that payroll surcharge that the collar counties pay? Isn’t necessarily dedicated to the MTA).

  • Knight

    Don’t the surrounding counties in NYS also pay an MTA surcharge on their vehicle registrations?

  • brooklyndan

    Tourists *are* taxed — and pretty heavily, too — through taxes on hotel rooms and airport access fees.

    And — oh by the way? — mass transit in NY gets less in government subsidies than pretty much anywhere else in the world, and far less than roads are subsidized.