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Bill de Blasio proposal would tax wealthy to fix subway, buses

Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday proposed a tax increase on the city’s wealthiest residents to fund an upgrade of the city’s beleaguered subway system, a plan that critics say won’t bring in the needed funding soon enough.

“This is not just a subway crisis, this is a human crisis. And New Yorkers are experiencing this every day,” de Blasio said at a news conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Under the mayor’s plan, an individual making about $1 million would pay about $2,700 more in annual taxes, or about $7 a day, said de Blasio, calling the tax a “modest increase.”

“We need a millionaires’ tax so New Yorkers who typically travel in first class pay their fair share so the rest of us can get around,” he said.

The plan would raise the city’s highest income tax rate from about 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent — an increase of about 0.5 percent — for married couples making more than $1 million a year and for individuals bringing in more than $500,000. It would apply to less than 1 percent of New York City tax filers, about 32,000 people, said the mayor’s office.

The tax increase would generate an estimated $700 million in 2018 before rising to about $820 million annually by 2022, according to the mayor. About $500 million of the tax revenue would go for capital improvement costs for subways and buses and about $250 million would fund Fair Fares, the proposal to offer half-price MetroCards to eligible low-income New Yorkers, he said. The funding from the tax would have to be clearly outlined that it’s going strictly to Metropolitan Transportation Authority operations and MetroCard discounts, de Blasio added.

The Fair Fares program would benefit as many as 800,000 New Yorkers living at or below the poverty line who are expected to qualify, de Blasio said.

But the plan has been criticized by MTA’s chairman Joe Lhota, the Citizens Budget Commission of New York and the Regional Plan Association, who say taxing the rich will take too long to bring in necessary funds.

Transport Workers Union representatives were at Monday’s news conference rallying against the mayor’s plan, echoing calls from the MTA and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for the city to immediately provide half of Lhota’s $836 million subway action plan.

De Blasio’s plan requires the support of the Republican-led State Senate, which has already shot down similar attempts by the mayor.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan called on the mayor to fund subway improvements with part of the city’s existing surplus.

“Mayor de Blasio doesn’t need to reach into the wallets of city residents to make that happen.”

With Lauren Cook

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