The Politics Of the MTA Payroll Tax Ruling
The Senate Republicans and their candidates spent most of the day crowing about, and slamming their Democratic opponents over, yesterday’s state Supreme Court ruling that the MTA tax is unconstitutional because it does not “serve a substantial state interest” and therefore should have required a home rule message.
The controversial tax passed as part of a 2009 MTA bailout package has been a campaign issue practically since the day it passed. It was so unpopular that eight Senate Democrats joined the entire GOP conferece in voting to repeal it back in June 2011.
The Republicans saw a partial victory in December 2011 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a partial rollback of the tax that was particularly beneficial to small businesses and private schools (perviously, only public schools were exempt). Cuomo offered this as part of a deal that included “yes” votes from the GOP on the tax code reform deal that raised income taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents – albeit not as high as much as would have been achieved through a simple reinstatement of the so-called millionaire’s tax.
This was a significant win for Sen. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island lawmaker who made elimination of this tax a hallmark of his successful 2010 campaign against former Democratic Sen. Brian Foley, who supported the MTA bailout during his brief tenure in Albany.
Zeldin has a little-known opponent this year, and he doesn’t appear in any danger of being ousted in November. He’s so confident that he recently took $50,000 of his campaign cash and used it to fund a leadership PAC, with which he plans to support pro-business candidates at the state and local levels.
But there are other competitive races on Long Island, which is currently a Senate GOP stronghold.
Notably, the Republicans are trying to defend the seat being vacated by retiring veteran Sen. Owen Johnson. They’re running Assemblyman Phil Boyle, who will face off against Democratic Suffolk County Legislator Ricardo Montano.
The payroll tax also played a role in GOP businessman Bob Cohen’s unsuccessful bid to oust Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer in 2010.
This year, the Westchester district is again a battleground, as Oppenheimer is retiring, leaving Cohen to fight Democratic Assemblyman George Latimer for her seat. Cohen and Latimer traded barbs today over the MTA court decision, with Cohen noting that Latimer was cheering the death of a tax he had voted in favor of creating in the first place.
Even before the ruling, Republican New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who is favored to win the Sept. 13 primary against Juan Reyes and take on Democratic Sen. Joe Addabbo in Queens, was making an issue of the payroll tax, criticizing Addabbo’s “yes” vote back in 2009.
Transit advocates are warning yesterday’s ruling will be a disaster for the MTA and could lead to higher bridge and tunnel tolls and train and subway fares. The MTA is pledging to “vigorously appeal” the decision, noting four prior challenges to the constitutionality of the tax have been dismissed in the past.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s another decision on this issue before the November elections. Perhaps this ruling will be overturned on appeal. Perhaps the lawsuit Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef says he plans to revive will produce another result this time around.
In the meantime, this is some great political fodder for the Senate GOP. And it’s worth noting that the judge who issued yesterday’s ruling, the Hon. Bruce R. Cozzens Jr., is a Republican. Just sayin’…
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on August 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm, and is filed under Democrats, MTA, Republicans, State Senate, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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