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If Congress passes the GOP-backed tax reform bill this week, the already-beleaguered Metropolitan Transportation Authority will find itself in even more financial trouble, says a joint study released by transit advocacy groups Riders Alliance and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign on Sunday. The legislation adds $1.46 trillion in debt by providing the wealthiest Americans and corporations with tax cuts. As amNY reported, the tax plan would jeopardize the financing of major projects from the MTA like expanding the Second Avenue subway and even everyday operations. The MTA relies on federal funds to pay for about 23 percent of capital needs.
Photo courtesy of Dan Phiffer on Flickr
The report listed five ways the GOP tax bill hurts transit in New York City, as well as in cities across the country. The groups say the bill threatens funding of key programs the MTA relies on for upgrades and expansions and brings back corporate profits held offshore without setting any aside for infrastructure investment. Plus, by reducing the state and local tax deduction, lawmakers would feel pressure to decrease revenue sources that normally would go to supporting public transit. The Republican-led bill would also end the tax deduction for businesses that subsidize their employees’ transit fares.
Nicholas Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, called the tax plan “a middle finger to transit.” He told amNY: “The administration has utterly failed to get any kind of meaningful infrastructure plan to form and now we’re seeing rollbacks for transit in this bill that’s going to leave millions of New Yorkers–and the regional economy–in the lurch.”
If passed, the tax plan would hit the MTA during a time of crisis. A report from the New York Times last month found the subway’s crumbling and outdated infrastructure is a result of decades of underinvestment from lawmakers. The city’s subway has the worst on-time performance of any major rapid transit system in the world when looking at the data of the 20 biggest systems. And just 65 percent of weekday trains reach their destinations on time, the lowest rate since the 1970s.
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the transit authority in a state of emergency this past summer, the MTA, led by its new chair Joseph Lhota, introduced an over $800 million plan to fix it. While the state has agreed to split the bill, Mayor Bill de Blasio has refused to commit more than the $2.5 billion his administration has already allocated to the MTA’s capital program.
“The tax bill in Washington is devastating for New York State and particularly jarring for the MTA,” Lhota told amNY. “It will result in a reduction of federal funding for mass transit, will significantly impede the MTA’s access to the capital markets and will increase the tax burden for all of our customers. This legislation is not tax reform, it is tax deform and is a direct assault on all New Yorkers.”
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