Almost 8,000 local families have voiced strong opposition to a possible New York City commuter tax and want what's been described as the city's "revenue scheme" derailed as soon as possible, Hempstead Town Supervisor Rich Guardino and Councilman Jim Darcy said during a Dec. 10 press conference.
"Instead of attempting to plug a yawning budget gap on the backs of hardworking Long Islanders, New York City should be developing new and innovative proposals to address its financial troubles. What's more, the city should be seeking to attract businesses that are critical to its fiscal well-being," Guardino said. "Commuters already contribute to the city's economy through dining, shopping, attending the theater and sporting events, among numerous other activities."
The Town of Hempstead spearheaded a massive petition drive which encouraged residents to voice their opposition to the reinstatement of a tax that could be as much as 2.7 percent of a commuter's income. According to reports, two-thirds of the city's budget doesn't even benefit commuters.
As a former state legislator who vigorously opposed the idea in Albany, Darcy said he was outraged to hear of the city's plan to bring back the "ill-conceived tax." To show just how serious Long Islanders are against the idea, Darcy said he and Guardino decided to pursue the petition drive.
"I stood at several train stations at six in the morning and commuters are usually not too receptive to politicians and government officials at that hour," he said. "However, the response we have received has been overwhelming. Commuters literally asked me for extra forms so that they could recruit their co-workers and family members."
Residents responded en masse and Guardino and Darcy said they'd be forwarding the names to Governor George Pataki, New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
As author of the bipartisan law abolishing the New York City Non-Resident Earnings Tax (or Commuter Tax), Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos said the restoration of this "onerous and unfair levy" is not a solution. "It is extremely offensive to suggest that suburban communities bear this burden," he said. "The elimination of the commuter tax in 1999 has been saving Long Island commuters $120 million each year and the results of this survey clearly indicate that Long Islanders strongly oppose its restoration."
Darcy added, "A commuter tax was a bad idea three years ago when it was repealed by New York State and it is a bad idea now. During these trying times for New York City, those living in the suburbs should be encouraged to commute to the city for jobs, not be penalized for it."
Guardino said officials have been in contact with the Senate delegation and have been assured that Long Island senators are on board to help fight this "taxation without representation." "The Town of Hempstead will continue to collect names and ensure that the voices of town residents are heard in Albany," Guardino said.