Sen. Michael Gianaris said the state and city have short-changed the MTA for years, and that the temporary tax would generate about $2 billion.
ALBANY — A Queens lawmaker wants wealthy downstate residents to foot the bill to fix the city’s subway and rail systems that have been plagued by delays and failures.
Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) is set to introduce legislation this week that would impose a three-year temporary state income tax surcharge on millionaires in the 12-county MTA region. The revenue raised would go to pay for upgrades to the transit system.
Gianaris said the state and city have short-changed the MTA for years, and that the temporary tax would generate about $2 billion. The exact tax rate has yet to be finalized, Gianaris said, but it would be a sliding scale based on income.
In addition, there would be a temporary surcharge attached to city hotels that would bring in “a couple hundred million a year,” he said.
His bill would also create an emergency manager who would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by both houses of the state Legislature to oversee the improvements.
Dubbed "Better Trains, Better Cities," Gianaris said his plan is modeled after the "Safe Streets, Safe Cities" program in the 1990s, when the city imposed a different set of temporary taxes in order to hire more police to fight crime.
"Now the trains are at a crisis point and we need the same kind of attention for the problem," he said.
While the bill doesn’t mention who should be the emergency operator, Gianaris said he’d like to see former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, who is credited with saving the city’s subway and bus systems in the 1980s.
Unlike the current MTA leadership, which also focuses on the bridges, buses and running the agency, the emergency manager’s only job would be to oversee the upgrades of the subway and train systems and to ensure the revenue raised from the tax surcharges is spent efficiently.
"It’s been (MTA leadership’s) job for many years and obviously the job has not been done," Gianaris said.
Gianaris said his plan is modeled after the "Safe Streets, Safe Cities" program in the 1990s, when the city imposed a different set of temporary taxes in order to hire more police to fight crime.
(Marcus Santos/New York Daily News)
The MTA board could overrule the manager with a supermajority vote.
Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) is set to sponsor the legislation in the Assembly, Gianaris said.
John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, called Gianaris’ plan a "valuable" one to address a growing emergency situation.
"The transit system is in crisis," Raskin said. "We need ultimately for Gov. Cuomo to put forth a comprehensive plan for how to solve it, including a fair and sustainable funding source. This effort pushes the conversation in precisely that direction."
An MTA spokeswoman declined comment. A Cuomo spokesman had no immediate comment.
Gianaris said he’d like to see the Legislature act on the bill later in the year if it comes back for a special session.
The Senate’s GOP spokesman Scott Reif attacked the plan as "MTA payroll tax 2," referring to a tax the Senate Dems placed on businesses in the MTA region that some say cost them the majority in 2010.
"The radical New York City Democrats never learn their lesson," Reif said. "Their solution is always higher taxes."