Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Times Opines Away on MTA

The NY Times editorialists are like a little dog with a bone when it comes to congestion pricing. In this morning's editorial on the MTA fare hike, here's what the paper had to say: "Legislators, particularly those in Albany, bear an even greater responsibility to help after they rejected a congestion-pricing plan that would have brought the M.T.A. $500 million in additional funds annually. They spurned it anyway, leaving the M.T.A. to rattle a cup and riders to reach ever deeper into their pockets."

Yet, while all in the know are saying that the agency is poorly managed, what sense does it make to throw money at this problem before overhauling the management structure? And the congestion tax is certainly not the way to go. Before we hit beleaguered tax payers with an additional burden two things are necessary.

In the first place, a full examination of the MTA's books is needed. Here's what the governor told the Times yesterday: "Mr. Paterson said he asked the authority to re-examine its financial situation and report back to him. “What I am asking the M.T.A. is to go back and take another look at their books.” But can the agency be solely responsible for this task? Is this a physician heal thyself moment? Isn't it time to put the agency into receivership?

Secondly, as we have already pointed out in a previous post, there's a wonderful new source of tax revenue that the Times needs to become the champion of-Indian cigarette tax revenues (Will this be the only taxing source that the paper doesn't support?). As NYACS points out, in fiscal year 2000-2001, before the current round of city and state cigarette tax increases, the state was losing around $250 million a year in lost tax revenues.

AS a NYACS press release pointed out earlier this year-citing its 20 year battle for fair enforcement: "The legal action is supported by the New York Association of Convenience Stores, which has waged a 20-year-long battle to get New York State to exercise its right under the U.S.
Supreme Court’s landmark 1994 Attea ruling to collect taxes on Indian sales to non-Indians.
NYACS estimates that Governor Spitzer’s inaction is costing licensed non-Indian retail
businesses over $1 billion annually in lost sales and costing taxpayers at least $500 million annually in lost revenue to the state (about $1.2 million per day)."

Indian retailer tax enforcement is an idea whose time has come. Let's close the loophole, protect local businesses and the health of New Yorkers, and help reduce the tax burdens that the citizens of our state are forced to bear. That's a decongestant that will help all of us-motorists and mass transit riders alike-breathe a little easier.