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Lawmakers Seek Further Reductions in MTA Payroll Tax

Two pieces of proposed legislation to exempt villages, towns, counties, libraries from the tax

Numerous Long Island lawmakers, joined by both the Nassau and Suffolk County Executives, plus Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos were out in force last Friday, calling for further reductions in the MTA payroll tax.

The press conference, held at the Nassau County Executive & Legislative Building, introduced state legislation (S-6206), one co-authored by State Senators Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and Lee Zeldin (R,C,I-Shirley). The bill would exempt villages, towns, and counties in New York State from the MTA payroll tax. Municipalities in New York State, both lawmakers said, currently pay a .34 percent tax per $100 of payroll to pay for the MTA.

“Property taxpayers paying for village, town and county services should not have their hard-earned tax dollars diverted to subsidize the MTA through this payroll tax,” Senator Martins said. “We need to alleviate some of the burdens placed on our local governments. This legislation does that and the result will be relief for our taxpayers, something we desperately need.”

In addition to S-6206, Senator Martins has introduced another bill, S-6079A, one that would repeal the MTA payroll tax for all libraries in the state. This legislation, the senator said, is more a matter of allowing libraries to have more resources to enhance their own services.

Several lawmakers applauded the earlier repeal, one that included 80 percent of all businesses in the state. But now lawmakers said more tax relief is needed as several of them criticized a tax that Supervisor Murray said was a matter of one government paying for another. Supervisor Murray and other lawmakers also noted that the “vast majority” of her constituents don’t use the MTA, a proclamation echoed by other lawmakers as proof of the payroll tax’s unfairness.

Senator Martins said the fiscal impact of the proposed repeal would amount to $30 million, adding that increased MTA revenues would easily cover that cost.

Most of all, lawmakers cited the continuing need to reduce taxes to both boost the economy and stem the ongoing out-migration of people from New York.

“[New York] is number one in out-of-state migration,” said State Senator Charles Fuschillo (R. -Merrick), blaming the ongoing phenomenon on high taxes.

Both Nassau County Executive Edward I. Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone lent their support to the proposed legislation.

“The mayors need relief,” County Executive Mangano said, referring to the number of such officials at the press conference. “Here in Nassau County, we need further relief. High taxes kill jobs.”

County Executive Bellone noted the number of small businesses that, he said, have benefited from the earlier MTA repeal.

Meanwhile, County Comptroller Maragos praised the performance of the Nassau County economy.

“Nassau County has weathered the recession better than other communities in New York,” he said, praising also County Executive Mangano for eliminating the energy tax and holding the line on property taxes. But the repeal, he added, was necessary to make Long Island “more business friendly.”

Also speaking in support of the proposed legislation was Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor). Thiele was the only lawmaker on hand who wasn’t a Republican. Thiele, however, caucuses with the Democratic majority in the State Assembly and Senator Martins was confident in both Assemblyman Thiele’s ability to support the proposed legislation in that body and in general, for the bill’s prospects.

“We are looking forward to quick passage in both the State Senate and the State Assembly,” he said.