Judge Finds MTA PayrollTax Unconstitutional

Once again the MTA Payroll Tax is in the news as State Supreme Court Judge Bruce Cozzens found the tax to be unconstitutional. This was a ruling that many counties such as Nassau, Suffolk & Westchester were hoping for when they joined forces along with other towns to file a lawsuit questioning the constitutional grounds of the tax.

Let’s first take a look more at the report from Joan Gralla of Reuters:

The tax is paid by employers located within the downstate area served by the MTA, which runs New York City’s buses, subways, commuter railroads and some major bridges and tunnels.

The lawsuit was brought by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, whose county, which lies on the western half of Long Island, is located within the taxing district.

The MTA noted that four previous lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the payroll tax had been dismissed. “We will vigorously appeal today’s ruling,” the authority’s statement said.

By limiting the tax to Nassau County, New York City, and the ring of suburban counties that lie north of the city, including Dutchess County, the legislature signaled that it was not “a substantial state concern” but instead a special law, Judge Bruce Cozzens, a state Supreme Court judge in Nassau County, said in his ruling.

The legislature was required to enact the law with a home-rule message or with a message of necessity, which requires two-thirds of the Senate and Assembly to approve the measure, Cozzens said. By failing to meet either condition, the legislature enacted the law unconstitutionally, he concluded.

“This is a great victory for every taxpayer as we buried the job-killing payroll tax that burdened every resident whether they used public transportation or not,” Mangano said in a statement.

The New York Supreme Court is the lowest of the three levels in the state. The judge did not order or direct the state to stop collecting the tax, so his ruling will not have any immediate effect.

Click here for the complete report.

Long time readers know I have never been a fan of this tax. However with that in mind, I can’t agree with the judge’s decision here. His official wording (found here) is basically spelling out the belief that the MTA itself is not a legitimate statewide concern.

Now on paper to those who are clueless or misinformed, this might be true. However if you are on the side of common sense & knowledge, one can argue that the MTA along with its infrastructure & service are the biggest economic engine for the state. One could even go as far & say the region considering how many millions from New Jersey & Connecticut benefit from it daily.

The judge’s ruling is not the end all be all of this as the MTA will strongly appeal the decision. Based on similar lawsuits over the tax that were found to be unconstitutional & later overturned, I expect the same here.

This all could have been avoided if legislators spent less time taking shots at the MTA & instead coming up with sustainable funding methods for the agency along with the protection of such funds from being used for non-MTA related programs & projects. Will we see this anytime soon? Of course not as that would be too easy…..

xoxo Transit Blogger

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