It’s Time For New York’s Wealthiest To Pay Their Fair Share To Fix The MTA

Below are excerpted remarks from Mayor de Blasio’s press conference on August 7th, 2017 at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

I hear from New Yorkers all the time what it means to lose time and work because of the subway crisis. People can’t get to work on time and that affects their paychecks. People can’t get to a job interview on time and that affects the ability to get that better opportunity. Parents who can’t pick up their kids at the end of school or daycare on time. Folks who are trying to get to a medical appointment and miss it because of subway delays.

This is not just a subway crisis, it’s a human crisis, and New Yorkers are experiencing it every single day. It demands new solutions. The status quo is not working. We need new solutions right now.

We understand that in recent months, what New Yorkers are experiencing on the way to work, on the way to school is delays like they’ve never seen before. And we hear the reports every day — the track fire, the signal malfunction, the electrical breakdown.

There’s been challenges for years but in the last few decades I can’t remember a time when there was such a concentrated set of problems as just in the last few months. That’s why I call it a crisis. All those years, in fact decades, when the State should have been investing in solutions they didn’t, and it’s all coming back to hit us now. Everyday New Yorkers are really feeling the brunt.

Change begins with a recognition of who is responsible for the MTA. The State of New York runs the MTA. The Governor of New York appoints the leadership of the MTA. It’s clear — the State of New York controls the personnel of the MTA.

Taking responsibility is the first step towards a solution. The State of New York controls the budget of the MTA. It’s clear that if we’re going to get it right, if the MTA is going to right work for everyday New Yorkers, the State has to continue to acknowledge its responsibility and, in fact, take fuller responsibility.

The people of New York City have paid into the MTA over and over again and have not gotten their fair share back. There’s always been an imbalance, and it has to be addressed for the long term good of this city and the region and the state. When you think about the history of unfairness, when you think about what New Yorkers give to the MTA every single year — in a typical year, $10.5 billion from New York City residents and people in New York City, contributing to the MTA through their fares, their tolls, and so many other ways. That’s about two-thirds of the operating budget right there before you talk about all the other things that the City of New York does to support the MTA. Notably, the $2.5 billion in capital funds we devoted two years ago to the MTA, not because we were obliged to but because we thought it was the right thing to do.

The City and the people of the city have done their share and now it’s time for the State to step up. Unfortunately we haven’t seen that. The State has syphoned off money from the MTA, we’ve documented it — almost half-a-billion dollars taken from taxes and revenues meant specifically for the MTA, syphoned off, diverted to the State budget — never returned.

Taking full responsibility means owning up to facts like that. It’s time for the State to return that money to the MTA to address the immediate challenges that the MTA faces. That will help address the short term challenges. But we’ve also talked about the big picture — the long term.

I’ve said repeatedly: We’re ready to work with anyone to help figure out the long-term future of the MTA. It’s in everyone’s interest to get it right. That means we’re going to have to invest in the kinds of things that were ignored for so long, those basic things that make the subway system run, and we’re going to need the revenue to do it.

This time we need revenue that will be sustainable, revenue that will make sure the system gets stronger, and we need fairness. Too many people who have paid in have not gotten their fair share back. And too many people who could have been paying a little bit more haven’t been so it’s time for fairness when it comes to supporting the MTA.

Today I am calling on Albany to pass a millionaire’s tax to support the MTA. We need a millionaire’s tax so that New Yorkers who typically travel in first class pay their fair share so the rest of us can get around, so the rest of us can get to work, so the rest of us can live our lives here in this city.

It’s a matter of fairness. It is a modest increase in State income taxes for those who make half-a-million or more. That means fewer than one percent of New York City taxpayers. This will be focused on people who live in the five boroughs and are doing very, very well. It would be for an individual making about a million dollars a year and obviously doing very, very well. That individual will pay about $2,700 more in their annual taxes. What does that mean? If they’re paying $2,700 more, it means about seven dollars a day. To give you perspective that’s about a half-hour of parking in a typical Midtown, Manhattan garage.

We know there are plenty of people who make a million dollars or more who go in and pay for parking, buy expensive meals, do all sorts of things. They’re not going to miss seven more dollars a day. But for working New Yorkers it could make a huge, huge difference.

What would it mean for the MTA? We believe this tax would raise $700 million a year. We think in short order that would grow to over $800 million a year.

We want to do two things with that money. I want to be very, very clear: The legislative authors are going to make sure that these things are stipulated in the bill draft–that they are required–because we’re not interested in the bait-and-switch at the MTA or by the State of New York, we want this to be dedicated funding specifically for this purpose.

Half-a-billion of that money would go to modernize the system. If the MTA chooses to, that money could be used in the bonding process and that could support up to eight billion dollars in capital projects.

That half-a-billion each year would allow the MTA to bond up to eight billion dollars in capital projects. They would be for New York City subways, New York City buses, and the Staten Island Railway specifically. It would be money devoted to improving service for everyday New Yorkers.

But there’s a second thing we want to see happen with this money, and that would be $250 million a year for Fair Fares for New Yorkers who need them. This means half-priced MetroCards for 800,000 New Yorkers who are at or below the poverty level. Almost one-tenth of New York City will get a break on their subway fare.

To put this in perspective, the MTA has been around a long time, and this would be the first millionaire’s tax in MTA history. It’s about time.

Let’s be blunt. There are a lot of wealthy New Yorkers. The folks I mentioned, that less than one percent — 30 to 35,000 people who would be paying this tax are doing very, very well. And they do well in part because of the MTA.

When the rest of us get on subways and buses to go to work, the folks who own those companies do well. When customers go to their stores and businesses, they do well. If it wasn’t for subways and buses that function they couldn’t do as well.

It’s about time they pay a little more so the rest of us can actually lead a better life, and particularly so those 800,000 New Yorkers who are struggling so much every single day to make ends meet can actually afford to live in this city.

That’s what this is about.

It will be clear in the legislation that there’s only two proper uses for this money. This money cannot be diverted, cannot be sent over to the State budget for some other purpose, cannot be used by the MTA for some other kind of need. It is explicitly going to be for two things and two things only: capital improvements to fix the basic operations of the MTA and the Fair Fare for those 800,000 New Yorkers.

It’s time to do something that will really break the mold here. A millionaire’s tax for the MTA should have happened a long time ago, and with the one percent becoming wealthier and wealthier, it’s time for a millionaire’s tax so that regular New Yorkers, every day New Yorkers can get to work, can get to that doctor appointment.

It’s time for a millionaire’s tax so parents can get to school to pick up their kids. It’s time for a millionaire’s tax people who need to get to the doctor don’t miss their appointment. It’s time for some basic fairness, and that’s what we aim to achieve.

We’re all going to work hard to make sure that happens. Are you ready to fight for it?

You can watch the Mayor’s remarks in their entirety here: