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Commuters who use the Long Island Rail Road will be facing a 27 percent fare increase unless the state leaders in Albany can come up with a rescue plan for the struggling transportation agency.

The increases in the Long Island Rail Road are due to take effect on June 1. Residents who take the railroad from Mineola to Penn Station every day will find their monthly tickets increase from $185 to $235. In the meantime, state lawmakers have been discussing ways to lessen the impact to commuters through a bailout plan. However, the question remains as to whether residents would be better off with the fare increases or the bailout plan.

Thus far, surcharges on cab rides in the city and a payroll tax on businesses that operate within areas served by the MTA, including all of Long Island, as well as higher registration fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Educational institutions such as school districts are concerned about what a payroll tax would do to school district budgets let alone local businesses that are struggling to stay afloat amidst falling sales revenues and increasing property tax burdens.

The payroll tax is being favored by such lawmakers as Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith. However, such lawmakers in the Democratic caucus, like Senator Craig Johnson, who represents the 7th Senate District, are opposed to a payroll tax. While Johnson sided with his caucus when it came to passing the state budget, he doesn't appear to be willing to do so when it comes to a payroll tax.

"I don't trust the MTA. Every time there is a problem, the MTA cries poverty. I'm not going to bail out the MTA with people's tax dollars," Johnson said in an interview with Anton Community Newspapers. "We should force the MTA to do a forensic audit."

State lawmakers have about a month to bail out the MTA before commuters are forced to. Either way, it looks as though the MTA's budget problems will have to be solved with public dollars.

- Joe Rizza


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