Why a non-NYC resident commuter tax won’t work

| lpenner@queenscourier.com |

Watch in the coming months as New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio with the support of NYC Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer, NYC Public Advocate-elect Letitia James along with virtually all other NYC Council, State Assembly and State Senate members from the Big Apple renew their annual call for reintroduction of a non-NYC resident commuter tax. How will Mayor de Blasio and company find the monies to pay back his union supporters? Many of the 300,000 NYC municipal employees have been working without contracts for years. They are obviously going to ask for some retroactive back wage increases which are worth up to $7 billion dollars. Residents all over Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and other suburban counties are a new potential revenue stream to help Mayor de Blasio and company pay for the costs. He also has to find new revenue sources to fill a looming multi-billion dollar shortfall in next year’s municipal budget.

The Democratic State Assembly speaker controls 100 votes out of the 150 member State Assembly. He starts off with 59 votes including his own out of 61 NYC based members. All he needs for passage is another 15 out of 41 other Democratic members of his caucus.

This old recycled idea periodically proposed by many others missed the potential economic consequences after implementing.

In today’s global economy, boundaries which end at the city line between NYC and the surrounding suburbs and others mean very little. We are all neighbors and thankfully there has never been a Berlin Wall between us.

The United States is in economic competition against other nations. Within the USA, residents of the Northeastern states compete against other state coalitions based in the geographic South, Rocky Mountains, West and other regions. Our metropolitan New York area comprising NYC, Long Island, northeast New Jersey, Hudson Valley and parts of southwestern Connecticut are in competition against other metropolitan areas around the nation and world. I work in NYC. My wife and I travel around the five boroughs enjoying shopping, dining, going to the movies, visiting museums and taking advantage of the diverse different neighborhoods.

Each weekday several hundred thousand Long Island and other suburban residents travel to jobs in NYC — the economic engine of our metropolitan region. Many others enjoy sporting events, the theater, museums, restaurants and shopping. A growing number of NYC residents have become reverse commuters to jobs in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties along with New Jersey and Connecticut. Other NYC residents attend sporting events, shop, dine and visit other places on Long Island. It is naive to believe that NYC can survive economically in today’s ever changing technology and global economy without Long Island and the rest of Metropolitan New York. The suburbs around the Big Apple are equally dependent on the success of NYC.

Residents of Long Island and NYC in the end have much in common. We should work together as neighbors and not adversaries. Reintroduction of a commuter tax on one set of non-residents could trigger an economic tariff war among neighbors. With the financial crises on Wall Street followed by our economic recession several years ago, thousands of commuters residing outside of NYC lost their jobs. These jobs have never come back. Between the downsizing of many Wall Street firms along with conversion of many offices and older buildings in the financial district into residential units, these losses of jobs have become permanent. As a result, the reintroduction of any nonresident commuter tax will not bring in the same level of revenues as was the case during the 1990s when it was last in place. It could result in a retaliatory commuter tax by Nassau County, other impacted suburban counties or neighboring states on NYC residents. At the end of the day, everyone could lose with implementation of any non-NYC resident commuter tax.