Officials back curb on MTA payroll tax

Nassau Executive Edward Mangano, right, and Suffolk Executive

Nassau Executive Edward Mangano, right, and Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone with state and local officials, want to end tax. (Feb. 3) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

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Nearly two dozen Long Island public officials, including its two county executives, gathered Friday to support a proposed state law to end the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax on large municipalities.

"Property-tax payers paying for village, town and county services should not have their hard-earned tax dollars diverted to subsidize the MTA through this payroll tax," said state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola). He and state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) are sponsoring the bill in the Senate. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) is the Assembly sponsor.

Under the bill, any municipality with a payroll of $1.25 million or more would be exempt from the tax.

State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, (R-Merrick), the Transportation Committee chairman, called the bill "vitally important."

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo opposes the proposal, noting that proponents do not explain how they will fill the budget gap left from removing the tax.

"Where do you make up the money?" Cuomo said Thursday in a meeting with Newsday's editorial board. "What do you want to stop funding?"

Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Democrats, said the bill is "under review," but noted that the legislature "just adjusted the tax in December." That measure, which Cuomo supported, ended the tax (34 cents per $100) for all businesses and municipalities with payrolls of less than $1.25 million, and all elementary and secondary schools.

County Executive Edward Mangano said Friday that the tax is costing Nassau $3 million a year. "Today, we join together to say enough is enough," Mangano said, arguing that the MTA should manage its finances more efficiently.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said his county also pays $3 million in MTA tax, and that a repeal would serve as an "economic boost for the Suffolk County economy and our region."

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, echoing a theme hammered by Thiele, said the "vast majority of town residents do not use any MTA services." She said the town pays nearly $600,000 for the payroll tax, "about what it costs to run our Senior Citizens Department."

Democrats pushed through the payroll tax under Gov. David A. Paterson in early 2009 to help the MTA close a more than $2 billion deficit. The tax was imposed on 12 downstate counties, including Nassau and Suffolk.

With Robert Brodsky

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