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Rockland Backs Plan In State Senate To Kill MTA Payroll Tax

Rockland estimates the new tax costs county governments and business an extra $18M, without any transit services.

Rockland County is supporting for a state Senate proposal that would scrap the MTA’s payroll tax imposed in 2010 to cover the agency’s budget gap.

“As an employer, the County of Rockland alone had to sacrifice $635,330.00 from its 2011 budget to pay for this job killing tax,” County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said, noting the total estimated payroll tax burden for Rockland County as a whole is $18 million.

In his support for the Senate proposal, Vanderhoef also renewed his call for a forensic audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, saying, “To date, the MTA has not had an authority-wide financial audit by an impartial, third party, experienced and credible auditor.”

The Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Mobility Tax affects Rockland, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Suffolk and Nassau Counties, the areas served by Metro-North Commuter Railroad and the Long Island Railroad. In Rockland, the MTA contracts with NJ Transit to provide commuter rail service on the Pascack Valley Line and the Bergen/Main Line.

Since the payroll tax was imposed, business and community leaders in Rockland have cited the tax as an unfair burden to most local private businesses and non-profit organizations. Rockland has also long been critical of the MTA because the county pays millions more in taxes to the agency than the county receives in public transportation services.

In August, Rockland County file a lawsuit against the MTA, charging that the payroll tax was a violation of the New York State Constitution. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from the MTA for the county being overcharged $42 million by the MTA.

“Imposition of this tax was particularly unconscionable here in Rockland given the annual $42 million value gap that Rockland residents and businesses already suffer—as documented by the MTA,” Vanderhoef said.

The county is awaiting a decision by the court in Albany on which judge will preside over this lawsuit and whether some or all of the similar cases brought by other counties will be heard together.

In September, Rockland County also began a new look at the possibility of pulling the county out of the MTA. Rockland has considered withdrawing from the MTA several times over the past two decades.

The current proposal in Albany would also authorize tolls on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro East River bridges in order to provide an alternative funding source for the MTA.

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