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Thread: The Commuter Tax

  1. #1

    Default The Commuter Tax

    November 16, 2002
    Tax Plan for Non-Residents Aims at Where the Money Is

    STAMFORD, Conn., Nov. 15 *They rise early each weekday morning for the trek to the great metropolis *traveling by rail, by bus, by ferry and by car. They swarm through Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal, hustle through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, clog tunnels and bridges and cram parking garages.

    They, of course, are commuters *some 800,000 briefcase-lugging pilgrims from the suburbs. By day, they work in New York City. At night, they return to places whose names are synonymous with gracious living: Stamford and Scarsdale, Montclair and Manhasset.

    If Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg achieves his goal of extending the local income tax to those who work in but do not live in New York City, these commuters will shoulder more than $2 billion in added tax liability next year. Mr. Bloomberg says it will cover their fair share of city services. Elected officials in the suburbs have reacted with outrage.

    Whether commuters ought to pay city taxes will be debated for many weeks to come. But according to demographers and other experts, this much is certain: commuters who work in New York City earn far more, on average, than city residents who work in the city. They also tend to earn more than people who live and work in the suburbs.

    In 1998, the last year in which New York City imposed a commuter tax, the average commuter working in the city earned $99,400, according to the city's Independent Budget Office. That year, the average city resident earned $33,700. "On average, certainly commuters were higher-income earners," said Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the budget office.

    Does that mean commuters ought to contribute more to city coffers? Or is higher pay a just reward for their daily slog? The Independent Budget Office crunches numbers; it does not get involved in politics, Mr. Turetsky said. Ask your favorite local politician.

    Figures released so far from the 2000 census are not detailed enough to form a profile of New York City's commuter work force. Eventually, census data will reveal roughly how many commuters are lawyers or bankers, doctors or firefighters, corporate executives or police officers.

    But even without updated statistics, some things are unlikely to have changed since the 1990 census. Most commuters to New York City are white and work in white-collar jobs, said Andrew Beveridge, a Queens College sociologist who has researched commuter demographics and analyzes census data for The New York Times.

    The general breakdown of commuters by profession is also unlikely to have changed much. According to 1990 census data, 18 percent of all commuters to New York City worked in executive or managerial positions, and 5.3 percent worked in sales in the financial sector. By comparison, just 2.1 percent of commuters were police officers and just 0.8 percent were firefighters.

    In all, nearly 800,000 tax filers paid commuter taxes to New York City in 1998. Of those, 265,938 were from Long Island; 251,660 from New Jersey; 103,292 from Westchester County; 30,765 from Connecticut; and 25,123 from Rockland County.

    According to the Metro-North Railroad, the average commuter is no longer a man in a gray suit but is now just as likely to be a woman in a gray suit. Of Metro-North's travelers during the morning rush, 54 percent are men and 46 percent are women, said Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for the railroad.

    More than 23,000 Connecticut residents ride Metro-North to work every day. And they are among the wealthiest of commuters. In 1998, Connecticut tax filers who worked in New York City paid an average of $919 in commuter taxes to the city. In Westchester County, the average figure was $553, and in Suffolk County, $288.

    Under the tax changes proposed by Mr. Bloomberg, nearly all commuters who work in New York City would pay far more than they did under the old system. When the State Legislature and Gov. George E. Pataki abolished it in 1999, the commuter tax rate was 0.45 percent of income earned in the city.

    Mr. Bloomberg's proposal would levy the city's personal income tax on commuters, most of whom would likely be subject to the top rate because of their high earnings. Tax experts said that a result would be an average sixfold increase in tax liability compared with the old commuter tax.

    Given that the largest numbers of commuters come from Long Island and New Jersey, it was hardly surprising that Gov. James E. McGreevey and Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, had some of the loudest and angriest reactions to Mr. Bloomberg's proposal.

    Today, Mr. Bloomberg invited other localities to levy income taxes on New York City residents who work outside the five boroughs. According to the 2000 census, 269,864 New York City residents work elsewhere.

    "If New Jersey taxed New York City residents that come there and get services in New Jersey, that would be appropriate," Mr. Bloomberg said on his radio program.

    "Everybody should pay for their fair share of the services they use," the mayor said. "Those people that come into New York City should pay for part of New York City services. Those people that go to Connecticut and go to New Jersey should pay there. I happen to pay taxes in all these states because my company has offices in most of these states, and I think that's perfectly appropriate as well."

    Copyright The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default The Commuter Tax

    I am glad about this, i feel those who use our roads and work in our buildings and use out transit system and live outside the boroughs should pay a tax for the use of our systems. They have been taking advantage of us New York City citizens and i feel that they should pay for it instead of making us clean up after them.

  3. #3

    Default The Commuter Tax

    "Today, Mr. Bloomberg invited other localities to levy income taxes on New York City residents who work outside the five boroughs. According to the 2000 census, 269,864 New York City residents work elsewhere.

    "If New Jersey taxed New York City residents that come there and get services in New Jersey, that would be appropriate," Mr. Bloomberg said on his radio program.

    "Everybody should pay for their fair share of the services they use," the mayor said. "Those people that come into New York City should pay for part of New York City services. Those people that go to Connecticut and go to New Jersey should pay there. I happen to pay taxes in all these states because my company has offices in most of these states, and I think that's perfectly appropriate as well."

    Personal note: I don't like it one bit though. Michael Bloomberg's war on the suburbs is counterproductive, not the least because it will piss off our suburban neighbors and invite reprisals.

    If Bloomberg's commuter tax comes into law, this will be taken as a sign of more harsh measures against the suburban commuters. This will definitely piss off our suburban neighbors and invite a political backlash, further fraying the fragile economic relationship between the giant and its little neighbors. I wouldn't wanna know what would happen if these suburbs in response imposed harsh measures on city residents who work there.

  4. #4

    Default The Commuter Tax

    Bloomberg is an idiot - Commuter taxes are ridiculous and unfair.

  5. #5

    Default The Commuter Tax

    They try this or have tried this in every city. *Suburban sparwl draws money out of the core metro tax base, so they try to make up for it with commuter taxes or "non-resident" taxes. *It definitely alienates people, and they tend to move their offices to the burbs. *In the case of my town, they are starting to realize this, they have offered, and are offering several proposals with lucrative incentives to get people to move back into the heart of downtown. *This is to help restore some of the lost tax base, but that seems to be a hard fought battle. *Why live amongst skyscrapers when you can have a green lawn and the white picket fence lifestyle? *This is a concept for which most people will argue in support of, and that exerts an extreme amount of pressure on many city planners who wish to keep their urban core strong and thriving. *It is a difficult balance to achieve

    (Edited by amigo32 at 3:07 am on Nov. 24, 2002)

  6. #6

    Default The Commuter Tax

    There was a commuter tax in NYC for over 30 years, starting in 1966 and repealed in 1999. NY went through recessions and booms regardless.

    I don't see why someone who uses city services for the majority of their waking hours shouldn't pay for them.

  7. #7

    Default The Commuter Tax

    I think it is a good idea. *Those who use the services should contribute.

  8. #8

    Default The Commuter Tax

    NY Times.

    December 9, 2002
    The Commuter's Fair Share

    Call it a commuter tax, call it an income tax — New York City needs a contribution from those workers who live outside the city. Only the State Legislature can approve such a levy, and so far the word from Albany has been discouraging. City residents have just been hit with a whopping 18.5 percent property tax increase. And those taxes will likely increase again, in part, to pay for police and fire and all kinds of support that benefit the day-trippers just as much as those who live and pay taxes in the five boroughs.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants a 2.7 percent city tax on all income made in the city. That's six times the old commuter tax, which seems a bit high. It may be simply the opening card. But the mayor deserves more than a sniff of disapproval from a capital crowd accustomed to rebuffing the city.

    Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has said he favors resuming the commuter tax temporarily, has a particular obligation to do so. He agreed to abolish it three years ago in an effort to win a Senate election for the Democrats. The Democrat lost the seat and the city lost the income. So the Democratic leader of the Democratic Assembly has a special need to restore his credibility on this issue.

    The Republican State Senate leader, Joseph Bruno, has summarily rejected the idea of commuters donating to the city. There are several Republicans in New York City who need to use their much-advertised powers with the Republican leadership to deliver a commuter tax. These senators are Guy Velella, Frank Padavan, Serphin Maltese, John Marchi, the newly elected Martin Golden and the newly converted Olga Mendez. These six have a special obligation to push for Mr. Bloomberg's commuter relief. If they don't, the mayor may have to raise property taxes again. And if he does, these six Republicans can be held directly responsible.

    Gov. George Pataki has said no to a commuter tax. But he, too, needs to find the political rationale to back the mayor's request. Mr. Bloomberg delayed his tax increase until after Mr. Pataki's re-election in November. Now Governor Pataki needs to return the favor — a big fiscal favor, not only for the mayor but also for the health and welfare of New York City.

  9. #9

    Default The Commuter Tax

    May 7, 2003

    A Wide Income Gap Separates Commuters and City Residents


    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposal to reinstitute a commuter tax may have expired in Albany, but an analysis of new census data suggests that suburbanites who commute to New York City are much better off on average than other New Yorkers and might not have been in a bad position to pay.

    The statistics, analyzed by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College, show that people who commute from the New York suburbs to the city make far more money, are more educated and more likely to have jobs in fields like finance, management and the professions.

    The average suburban commuter earned $75,439, according to the data from the 2000 census released last month. The average for city residents who work in the city was $41,889, and for suburbanites working in the suburbs, $41,031.

    The census also shows that the commuters are more likely than others to be white, male and married. Nearly one in four had an advanced degree, and nearly 55 percent had completed college at a minimum.

    Comparable 2000 figures for commuters from New Jersey and Connecticut are not yet available. But the 1990 census shows a similar pattern: people from New Jersey and Connecticut who commuted to New York City made much more than those who did not.

    Mr. Bloomberg proposed reinstituting an income tax on commuters last November in an attempt to help close the city's budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Gov. George E. Pataki opposed the idea, saying it would be damaging to the economy and would inhibit recovery.

    Last week, the State Legislature promised more than $1 billion in new revenue for New York City as part of a budget plan that Mr. Pataki said he would veto. The plan would entail an increase in the sales tax and a temporary surcharge on state residents who make $150,000 or more. It does not include a commuter tax.

    Asked whether the census data called into question any suggestion that the tax would impose an inordinate burden on suburban commuters, Joe Conway, the press secretary to Mr. Pataki, said, "The governor has made it clear that given the fragile nature of the economy, he's going to continue looking to other ways to help the city."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  10. #10


    Mike’s Stadium Revenge:
    A Tax To Shell Shelly

    By: Jason Horowitz
    Date: 12/5/2005

    Even in his post-election euphoria, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cheek no doubt still stings from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s smackdown of his ambitious plan for a West Side stadium. That defeat was the most glaring failure of the Mayor’s first term.

    Now, New York’s power brokers are watching carefully to see if the Mayor intends to use his significant political capital to take a more aggressive—and perhaps even vengeful—stance towards Albany, and especially Mr. Silver.

    In this anxious climate, many political insiders are intrigued by the sudden reappearance of the defunct commuter tax as an issue commanding the Mayor’s attention. That’s because Mr. Bloomberg is usually so achingly practical, and yet he has refused to rule out discussions about an issue widely regarded as a legislative pipe dream.

    “An awful lot of the people in the suburbs come in and work in this city, and the reason they have jobs here is because of all the services that the city provides,” Mr. Bloomberg said on Nov. 14, during a visit to Queens. “It’s not unreasonable to ask them to pay part of the cost of those services.”

    But most politicians agree that it’s unreasonable to expect that the tax could be reinstated in 2006, a statewide election year when many State Senate candidates will be running for office in suburbs or counties that would be adversely affected by the tax. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, has made clear that he won’t allow it.

    Instead, some analysts think that the Mayor has more Machiavellian motives for talking about the commuter tax. Among the many proposals Mr. Bloomberg could potentially send north to Albany, few are as fraught as this one. The central figure in the abolition of the commuter tax—which cost the city about $500 million a year—was none other than the Mayor’s stadium nemesis, Sheldon Silver.

    If Mr. Silver’s high oratory against the stadium (“This fight is about restoring New York City’s soul”) marked an apex in his political career, his infamous repealing of the commuter tax in 1999 was the low point.

    The repeal of a tax that John V. Lindsay pushed through the State Legislature in 1966 resulted from little more than a game of political brinksmanship. Mr. Silver, a Democrat who runs the State Assembly as firmly as Mr. Bruno runs the State Senate, proposed the elimination of the tax because it had become an issue in a special State Senate election in suburban Rockland County in 1999. Democrats were hoping to win the seat and thus cut into the Republican majority in the Senate. Elimination of the tax, a sore point for anti-tax Republicans in the suburbs, seemed to enhance the Democrats’ chances. (They lost anyway.)

    At least one prominent state Democrat, who wished to remain anonymous so as to maintain neutrality between Mr. Silver and Mr. Bloomberg, said he believed the commuter tax to be a genuine part of the Bloomberg administration’s Albany agenda. The source added that the antagonism between the Mayor and the Speaker did factor, at least in part, in Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to press for the tax’s reinstatement.

    But a more widespread sentiment has it that the tax is more useful to Mr. Bloomberg as a way to frame the argument that city residents suffer from an unfair, almost parasitic relationship between the city and the state.

    “The Mayor getting out in front and talking about the imbalance between what New York City contributes and gets from the state is tremendously important. He doesn’t need to get the commuter tax to succeed in reducing the disgraceful inequity in the state’s funding to the city—it’s a drop in the bucket,” said State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat from Manhattan. “If this is an indication of the things he is going to fight for, it’s a positive sign for what we can expect for the next four years.”

    Waiting for Spitzer?

    With lame-duck Governor George Pataki focusing on a possible Presidential campaign in 2008, some politicians suggest that Mr. Bloomberg is simply biding his time before articulating which issues he plans to emphasize in his second term. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination for Governor next year, is seen as more responsive to the city’s needs than Mr. Pataki has been.

    “[The commuter tax] could be easily restored if you had a Governor who wanted it,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. “Everything is a question of political will.”

    Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for the Bloomberg administration, said it was still premature to discuss its second-term legislative strategy.

    “No campaign has been launched. That’s not to say that, in the future, a campaign won’t be launched,” said one City Hall official, referring to the commuter tax. “There is no Albany agenda right now. “

    But some analysts and partisans for the city’s interests say that by waiting, Mr. Bloomberg risks letting his dizzying poll numbers fall and his political capital go to waste.

    “It’s somewhat disappointing that they don’t know,” said Doug Muzzio, a political-science professor at Baruch College, referring to City Hall’s insistence that it has no Albany agenda yet. “It’s indicative of the management-not-leadership approach of this Mayor. The fact that they haven’t articulated an approach and might not have an approach—it seems a lack of vision here.”

    The City Hall official suggested that the Mayor’s annual budget speech in January could partially unveil an agenda, but political observers are eager to see how Mr. Bloomberg intends to exercise his influence—or perhaps exact his revenge—on Mr. Pataki, Mr. Bruno and Mr. Silver, the men who killed his stadium plan.

    Except for strengthening the city’s position in the redevelopment of Ground Zero, the Mayor has been loath to pick a fight with Mr. Silver or the other Albany power brokers, and has been attacked by Democrats for his inability to sway his fellow Republicans upstate. Still, it isn’t clear what he would gain from adopting a more abrasive attitude now.

    “If you turn to Albany, you don’t want to antagonize one of the three players, especially with a lame-duck Governor,” said one political insider. “You’re going into an issue where Shelly, as part of the state government, has real clout. At this stage of the game, it would be kind of gratuitous to go after Shelly. There is so little to be gained and so much to be lost, it doesn’t seem smart—it doesn’t seem like Michael Bloomberg.”

    “The Speaker has proven to be a resilient political player. It makes sense for the Mayor to work with the Speaker,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “Politics is not about yesterday’s battles, it’s about tomorrow.”

    Mr. Bloomberg may resist any obvious shots at Mr. Silver, but he has already tried, like Mr. Giuliani before him, to reinstate the commuter tax. He did so in 2003, when he not only proposed the tax’s revival, but at more than five times the previous rate, which had been 0.45 percent of a commuter’s wages. That proposal was promptly crushed. But Mr. Bloomberg didn’t come away empty-handed, as the state eventually agreed to pitch in $2.5 billion to cover old city debt.

    “It’s all a game, just like it was in 2003,” said Edmund J. McMahon, who heads the conservative Manhattan Institute’s Albany branch and frequently criticizes the Mayor’s tax hikes. “There is absolutely zero chance that [Albany] would approve [a new commuter tax]. That’s the kindest way to put it.”

    Mr. McMahon believes that the commuter tax is consistent with Mr. Bloomberg’s purported vision of the city as a “luxury product,” a place where the rich come to make and spend their money. But supporters of the tax point out that up to about 40 percent of commuters come from Connecticut and New Jersey, meaning that a sizable chunk of the people shouldering the tax burden wouldn’t be New York residents.

    Liberal members of the City Council see the tax as crucial to lowering the city’s deficit. In a recent debate among seven Council members running to become the body’s next Speaker, all but one said they felt that a reinstatement was a real possibility.

    “We’ve already gotten several things that we weren’t supposed to get. Yes, it’s negotiable, it’s realistic, you can fight for it. And if the State of New York needs anything from the City of New York, they had better do that for us,” said City Councilwoman Melinda Katz of Queens.

    But unless there’s a dramatic change of heart in the Long Island or upstate suburbs, the tax is likely to stay buried. And Mr. Silver’s legacy is likely to live on.

    Indeed, Mr. Muzzio said that the Mayor must be thinking of some strategy beyond the commuter tax.

    “It’s hallucinatory,” he said. “If this is really part of the agenda and he really thinks he’s going to get this, forget it. It’s got to be something else; it must be signaling something else.”

    copyright © 2005 the new york observer, L.P.

  11. #11


    It's good that this proposal is still dead.

    Despite the "fair share" rhetoric from Bloomberg, the NY Times, and (in this forum) "Rich Battista" this was never about fairness. It was about milking some extra revenue for NYC residents, while making other people pay for it.

    Commuters already pay their fair share. They pour money into city coffers by paying bridge tolls, transit fares, and quite a bit of sales taxes. Local businesses florish because of the money they spend here when they're in town. The businesses that employ them contribute even more in various taxes. At the same time, they also do not add significant costs to the city. They aren't using the schools or social services at all, and they are much less likely to burden police and fire. And most of them don't have the pro-litter mentality so endemic to NYCers, so we aren't "cleaning up after them" as someone said.

    An income tax on commuters is ridicullous and unfair, since an income tax supports services that the commuters don't use. The fair solution is the one we already have--make the commuters contribute to the services they use, like roads and trains.

  12. #12


    I wouldn't mind if they reimposed the commuter tax.

    But, no taxation without representation. If commuters have to pay the tax, they should get to vote for city politicians.

  13. #13
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    When I work outside of NYC I have to pay tax(es) in the locality where I work.

    And I'm not voting in any of those places.

    Nobody can vote in more than one place.

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