Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday outlined his plan to tax wealthy New Yorkers to fix what he says is a subway crisis. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
It wasn’t long ago the mayor said riding the subways amounted to cheap symbolism. But lately, he's been a more frequent straphanger, and he now appears eager to play the white knight riding in to save an ailing system.
"Something has changed in just the last few years, particularly the last few months. And it's driving New Yorkers crazy," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "The subway is not working."
To help fix it, he unveiled an ambitious plan Monday. His so-called millionaires' tax would tax those making $500,000 or more, about 32,000 people altogether, and yield $500 million a year toward transit upgrades. It would also fund half-priced fares for low-income riders, defined as those below the federal poverty line, some 800,000 New Yorkers in all.
"We need a millionaires' tax so that New Yorkers who typically travel in first class pay their fair share, so the rest of us can get around," de Blasio said.
The move seems sure to escalate the mayor's feud with Governor Andrew Cuomo over responsibility for the MTA. He argues the city already pays more than its fair share, and that the state has siphoned off half a billion dollars from the agency.
"It's time for the state to give that money back," de Blasio said. "And I won't be surprised if that becomes a legal issue unto itself if that doesn't happen."
"This is a canard, as I've said over and over again. The mayor is throwing up a smokescreen," said MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.
While the mayor's plan won praise from transit advocates, Lhota was less impressed. Even if passed, he said, it'll do nothing to fund short-term emergency repairs.
"What he's proposed today will not come in until next year. I can't wait until next year," Lhota said.
And even next year seems ambitious, given the Republican leadership in the state Senate declared it essentially dead on arrival.
The mayor has lost plenty of battles in Albany but believes he has two factors working in his favor this time: a sense of urgency brought on by the crisis, and the fact it's a New York City tax only and won't affect the districts of upstate Republican lawmakers.