In a minor ruling, New York's highest court Thursday sent the lawsuit over the legality of the controversial MTA payroll tax to a midlevel court.

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The case centers on a claim by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano that the law creating the tax -- paid by employers in the 12 counties served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- was legally defective.

A trial court ruled in Mangano's favor. The MTA then asked to take the case directly to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest legal venue. Instead, the Court of Appeals said it must first go to the Appellate Division.