Imposing a millionaire’s tax to cover mass transit costs would only let the federal government off the hook for disastrous mistakes made prior to the pandemic that allowed it to get out of control in New York before anywhere else, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
When asked if there would be a point where the governor would reconsider his opposition to a bill designed to levy funds from the state’s wealthiest in order to settle financial shortfalls experienced by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Cuomo said he plans to hold the federal government accountable as long as necessary.
“If the legislation is not going to help New York, you know what I say to [federal lawmakers]? Don’t pass it,” Cuomo said. “One percent of the population pays 40% of taxes, and they’re the most mobile people on the globe… That would be a bad place we’d have to go to [to raise taxes].”
Some of the existing proposals in Albany raise funds from the wealthiest New Yorker includes a stock transfer tax that could bring in $13 billion a year as well as an assessment tax on homes costing over $1 million in Manhattan. Some of the staunchest supporters include state Senator Jessica Ramos and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“All these federal agencies, all this taxpayer money. Nobody said the virus is in China in December? Maybe it’ll infect someone who gets on a plane. Nobody thought that?” Cuomo continued. “It was the federal negligence. Now, they’re not going to pay for the damage that they did?”
But the clock is ticking.
With $3.9 billion included in the CARES Act in April, the HEROES Act never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. In the past week, Senate Republicans in Washington introduced the HEALS Act, devoid of any funding for state and local governments including transit agencies, something the MTA has said is essential to helping them “keep the lights on.”
A $16 billion deficit looms for the MTA and an even bigger one for the state at over $60 billion due to COVID-19.
It wouldn’t be the first time a millionaire’s tax to fund transit was scrapped. In 2017, state Senator Michael Gianaris introduced legislation that would impose a three-year, temporary state income tax on millionaires living within the 12 counties served by the MTA. Governor Andrew Cuomo did not support the bill and instead proposed toll on cars and trucks entering Manhattan below 60th Street.
Congestion pricing, officially known as Central Business District tolling, has gone year after year without implementation and from one transit crisis to another still had not received approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The MTA claims this stems from the federal agency’s reluctance to define what needs to be examined in an environmental study.