Vital repairs to the city’s ailing subway system could be funded quickly by dipping into the city’s sales tax revenue, according to State Sen. Jeff Klein, head of the Independent Democratic Conference.
Klein and his IDC colleagues are set to unveil their “Rider Relief Plan,” on Thursday that also calls for freezing fare hikes with revenue from additional speed cameras at all city schools.
The plan calls for using $431.5 million of the city’s sales tax to pay for half of the first phase of the MTA’s Subway Action Plan, which includes repairs to signals, tracks and other emergency needs for the massive system. MTA chairman Joe Lhota has said the city and the state should split the cost of the $836 million plan.
Mayor de Blasio has balked at using city monies to pay for Lhota’s plan, instead favoring a millionaire’s tax as a steady stream of funding for the MTA.
But Klein said raising money through a Millionaire’s Tax or congestion pricing would take years to implement.
“This has to happen right away,” Klein said about the subway repair plan. “This is such an important system to New York City residents.”
He said the $431.5 million represents just 6% of the city’s annual $7 billion sales tax revenue.
Klein said he has the support of the Transit Workers Union and plans to make the proposal part of the IDC’s budget agenda. The group of breakaway Democrats has drawn controversy for working with the Republican majority in the Senate to move its agenda forward.
The second part of the IDC’s Rider Relief plan focuses on expanding the use of speed cameras at city schools to raise funds that could stave off impending hikes to tolls and subway fares. It estimates bringing speed cameras to all schools in the city could generate $425 to $500 million in revenue and that even adding some of those cameras could bring in $188 million as soon as 2019.
In addition, Klein said the funds would be used for half fare discounts to people making under $27,000 a year and to slash express bus service fares in half to make them more affordable. A one-way fare on an express bus currently costs $6.40.
De Blasio has also proposed using money from the millionaire’s tax to pay for half-fare bus and subway fares for low income New Yorkers.
“We are using the money from the speed cameras in a very smart way, making sure everyone benefits who uses mass transit,” said Klein.
He said the group has sent a copy of the plan to Lhota and will discuss it with him. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to a spokesman, has not yet seen the plan.