Bill de Blasio Will Push for Tax on Wealthy to Fix Subway – New York Times

Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo, who are Democrats and have long had a strained relationship, have engaged in an acrimonious public skirmish over financing for public transit. Mr. Cuomo controls the transportation authority, but he has called on Mr. de Blasio to help fix the system. Both leaders have been pressured to address the crisis, with worsening subway service hurting Mr. Cuomo’s approval rating among voters and Mr. de Blasio being targeted by a harsh television ad campaign by the subway workers union.

The tax changes would require approval from state lawmakers in Albany — a difficult task, with Republicans in control of the Senate, though the urgency of the subway’s decline has raised the stakes and captured the attention of both parties.

On Sunday, the authority’s chairman, Joseph J. Lhota, responded to the mayor’s proposal by saying that the agency needed emergency financing immediately.

“There’s no question we need a long-term funding stream, but emergency train repairs can’t wait on what the State Legislature may or may not do next year,” Mr. Lhota said in a statement.

Mr. Lhota, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. de Blasio for mayor in 2013, also took a jab at Mr. de Blasio, saying he was glad the mayor had “reversed himself” after arguing that the authority did not need additional money. Mr. Lhota recently proposed a roughly $800 million plan for immediate subway repairs and called on Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio to split the costs evenly.

Delays have skyrocketed on the century-old subway system, and several recent accidents have raised safety concerns. At the same time, the authority has been raising fares every two years, with the latest increase taking effect in March when the cost of a monthly MetroCard rose by $4.50 to $121.

The mayor’s proposal builds on an effort by State Senator Michael Gianaris, Democrat of Queens, to tax the wealthy to support the subway, and a campaign by transit advocates to establish reduced fares for poor residents.

The transit system in Seattle began offering reduced fares for low income riders in 2015 and has signed up more than 40,000 people. San Francisco has a similar program, and other cities like Boston and Minneapolis have considered the idea.

Mr. Cuomo echoed Mr. Lhota, saying that waiting to approve a new revenue stream when the next legislative session began in January would take too long.

“The city should partner with us and match the state funding now so we can begin Chairman Lhota’s overhaul plan immediately and move forward,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “We cannot ask New Yorkers to wait one year to start repairs.”

Mr. Gianaris also said state lawmakers should not wait until the next session to take up the mayor’s proposal,

“I would argue that the M.T.A. is in a full-blown crisis and that would justify our return to Albany to enact this measure in an emergency session,” Mr. Gianaris said.

A spokesman for Senate Republicans did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Getting a tax approved by the Legislature, however, is another matter. A decade ago, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed an $8 congestion fee for drivers in parts of Manhattan during peak hours on weekdays. The fee never received enough support to be voted on by the State Senate.

The proposed new tax would raise about $700 million to $800 million a year, with more than $500 million going toward capital costs for subways and buses and about $250 million for the half-price MetroCard program, city officials said. It would increase the city’s highest income tax rate by about 0.5 percent, to 4.4 percent from about 3.9 percent, for married couples with incomes above $1 million and individuals who make more than $500,000.

City officials estimate that the tax would be paid by about 32,000 New York City tax filers, or less than 1 percent of those who file their taxes in the city. New Yorkers already contribute to the authority through various taxes and fees, and the city has committed $2.5 billion for the agency’s current capital improvement plan.

Mr. de Blasio’s plan comes with several demands, including that Mr. Cuomo keep his promise for the state to pay $8 billion toward the authority’s current capital plan and an additional $1 billion Mr. Cuomo committed for the subway in June. The new funding would also be separate from the authority’s short-term subway rescue plan, which city officials said should be paid for by returning money to the authority that the state had previously diverted.

The mayor’s embrace of half-price MetroCards for poor New Yorkers comes after months of lobbying from transit advocates and could be a popular proposal as Mr. de Blasio runs for re-election in November. About 800,000 people in New York City who are at or below the federal poverty level could qualify for half-price MetroCards, city officials said.

John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group that has called for reduced fares, applauded the mayor’s push for new revenue and his support for half-price MetroCards.

“We need to get the subway system working again so that New Yorkers can get to work,” Mr. Raskin said, “but we also need to make the system accessible for the poorest New Yorkers so they can find jobs, education and economic opportunities in the first place.”

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Bill de Blasio Will Push for Tax on Wealthy to Fix Subway – New York Times