SOMERS, N.Y. — Northern Westchester politicians serving in Albany are teaming up with local officials to scrutinize the finances of one of the state’s largest entities. State Sen. Greg Ball (R,C - Patterson), Assemblyman Steve Katz (R,I - Yorktown), and other local politicians, including Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy, called for a forensic audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) at Somers Town Hall Monday afternoon.
Ball, who has introduced legislation that would repeal the tax and legislation perform an audit of the state corporation, called the MTA “grossly mismanaged” and “corrupt.” He said an audit is needed to see where tax dollars are distributed from the MTA payroll tax, and to see where cuts could be made to make up funds after repealing the tax.
“Right now the MTA payroll tax represents over a billion dollars, and this is the problem with creating new tax increases,” Ball said. “You create that new tax increase and that represents over a billion dollars of the MTA budget, and that’s about $10 million or more,” Ball said. “In order to repeal that MTA payroll tax, we’ve got to find a savings within that MTA budget … and then actually find cuts to really what is cost-overrun."
Ball said the senate has repealed the tax, and now the assembly needs to pass it. He said members Assembly, like Katz, have pushed to have it repealed, while Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D – Manhattan), Speaker of the House, needs to get the bill passed.
“This has been a blight on the Hudson Valley, this has been a milestone around the necks of businesses in the Hudson Valley,” Katz said. “In my opinion, the MTA symbolizes all that is wrong with New York, and all the things that we’re trying to correct, and are working so hard to turn New York once again into the Empire State. This must be addressed.”
Katz said, as representatives of the citizens of New York, the issue should be placed above politics, to make sure tax dollars are being used fairly and transparently in order to allow New York to catch "its breath again."
“The fact of the manner is, the MTA looks more like a black hole than an efficient authority, providing quality service,” he said. “We’re a state that is basically trying to get our breath again, and we’re having the life sucked out of us by the MTA.”
As a business owner in Yorktown, Councilman Murphy said he feels the effects and burden of the tax, and said the tax, although it’s at a low rate, could climb continuously since there is no cap.
“It’s an ambiguous tax, there’s no control,” Murphy said. “We know, once you’re taxed, it’s never going to end. As a business owner, if my expenses exceeded my revenues, I would be out of business. This is a tax because they can’t control their own budget.”
MTA officials have said forensic audits are welcome and that the payroll tax is necessary to avert service cuts and exorbitant fare increases. Last month, the MTA released a preliminary 2012 budget that calls for a three-year salary freeze for workers and a 7.5 percent fare and toll increase for 2013 and 2015. That plan calls for the current payroll tax to remain in place, unchanged.