Monday, October 22, 2007

Demanding a Recount

We've been saying all along that the mayor's congestion tax scheme was badly in need of a forensic accountant-mainly because we feel that the tax consequences of the plan can be construed as a criminal assault on the city's middle class commuters. In today's NY Daily News, the paper's Adam Lisberg does what all of the press should have been doing months ago: closely examining the numbers, and analyzing the plan's projections.

And what he finds isn't pretty. As the News points out: "Mayor Bloomberg says congestion pricing will raise $390 million a year for mass transit, but that figure is nothing more than an educated guess..." Or, as we would put it, a not so educated guess that would eventually mean that the city's commuters-those in their cars as well as those using mass transit-would be an ever escalating fee for coming into the city's CBD.

Which of course devolves from the system's operating costs that will eat up most of the plan's revenues; monies that are projected to go to the needed improvement of the mass transit infrastructure. Without this improvement, the cars that are removed from the streets will mean thousands of new transit commuters for a system that everyone see as already over crowded.

So how does the administration respond to the news? Here's mayoral spokesman John Gallagher: "The true benefits of the plan are derived from reducing traffic-choking congestion." That is a decent goal to shoot for, but it isn't a panacea in the context of a crowded system badly in need of expansion and repair.

One major thing to keep in mind is the fact that the highly touted London system didn't meet revenue projections until it jacked up the tax to around $16 per day. So what we're looking at here is a continual assault on commuters and small businesses to feed a technologically complex congestion system administration.

Which raises the question of where the money's going to come from for mass transit. When the MTA revenue shortfalls are seen in the context of a congestion tax that fails to generate sufficient monies for trains and buses, it means that the mass transit commuters better get ready to be hosed-with the end result being that everyone will have to pay more in one of the highest taxed cities in the world.

But don't get despondent about all of this because we read in the NY Times this morning that we Americans are severely undertaxed! Yes, compared to other industrialized countries, we're lagging behind! And; "This country’s meager tax take puts its economic prospects at risk and leaves the government ill equipped to face the challenges from globalization."

So we guess that everyone should begin to see our new tax burdens as our chance to catch up with Holland and Germany-countries whose government sponsored welfare programs and poor economic growth will lead to an inevitable implosion in the next twenty years. Another example of why the Times itself is becoming like the Dodo bird.

But we digress. What the Daily News story dramatizes is the fact that the entire congestion tax scheme cannot withstand any kind of independent scrutiny-for either its revenue numbers or its traffic reduction estimates. Which leads us to urge our Assembly friends to save us all from buyer's remorse and can this ill-conceived experiment.