Hawkins says a Realistic Subway Fix Needs Congestion Pricing, Millionaire’s Tax, and More

Hawkins says a Realistic Subway Fix Needs Congestion Pricing, Millionaire’s Tax, and More

For immediate release: October 22, 2018

Green gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins said today that he is the only candidate with a realistic approach to funding the upgrades needed to the New York City subway system.

Hawkins called Gov. Andrew Cuomo “irresponsible” for proposing to fund the MTA’s Fast Forward plan to fix the subways over the next decade by splitting the cost “fifty-fifty” between the state and the city.

“It is the state’s responsibility to provide most of the funding for the MTA. The governor controls it. He appoints the majority of the MTA board. He should stop using the MTA as a ping pong ball in his intramural competition with Mayor De Blasio,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said that the city should continue contributing, but that most of the funding should come from state revenues.

Hawkins also blasted the other gubernatorial candidates’ proposals. “The idea of Republican Marc Molinaro and Serve America’s Stephanie Miner to pay for subway upgrades by cutting costs is as unrealistic as Libertarian Larry Sharpe’s idea of funding it by selling corporate naming rights for MTA bridges and tunnels. Cutting funding to the MTA in order to cut costs has been what governors have done for decades and look at what a mess they have made of the subway system,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said that MTA board members have a better grasp of the MTA funding crisis. MTA board member Carl Weisbrod said recently,  “We don’t yet have a final target price on Fast Forward, but congestion pricing and the millionaires tax together are unlikely to fund Fast Forward, much less our other transportation needs.”

Hawkins proposes ecological and progressive taxes to fund $100 billion subway fix

Hawkins said he would propose in his first year of office a multi-year $100 billion capital spending plan to fix the MTA, expand it to so-called “transit deserts,” and improve commuter trains from the suburbs.

Hawkins said that the $100 billion for these capital improvements should be funded by a variety of revenue sources, including congestion pricing, a carbon tax, land value taxation, and increased taxes on the incomes and stock trades of the wealthy.

The Fast Forward modernization planproposed by transit authority president Andy Byford calls for $19 billion in capital spending the first five years and $18 billion more the next five years for a total of $37 billion. The Regional Plan Associationestimated it will take another $62 billion to extend subway lines to the city’s unserved “transit deserts” and make needed improvements to commuter rail service.

“My administration will use ecological and progressive income taxes to fully fund a $100 billion capital budget to modernize and expand New York City’s public transit system. The new revenues will stabilize the operating budget and enable free or reduced fares, as many cities around the world are now doing. Lower fares will help struggling working-class commuters and serve as an incentive to use public transit and reduce the negative impacts of cars in the city,” Hawkins said.

“The MTA acts too much like an ATM for Wall Street,” Hawkins continued. “At 16% of the operating budget,debt service for the capital plan consumes far too much of the operating budget. 52% of the capital budgetis finance by bonding. It is better for average taxpayers to tax the rich upfront than to borrow money from them and pay them interest for it.”

Hawkins described congestion pricing, the carbon tax, and land value taxation as ecological taxes on resource-depleting and environmentally-damaging activities that diminish the finite commonwealth of land, air, water, and life-sustaining ecosystems. Eco-taxes are generally progressive because they shift taxation away from incomes and savings earned by labor.

But Hawkins does not intend to shift all taxation away from income. The share of all income in New York City going to the top 1%has increased from 12% in 1980 to 41% today. Income taxes on high personal incomes, corporations, and stock trades were cut over the same period, while public austerity budgets, including for public transit, have become the norm.

Hawkins called for clawing back the portion of the $10 billion annual windfallto New York corporations from the Trump corporate tax cuts that is not used by companies to raise worker pay or create new jobs. He would end the rebate of the Stock Transfer Tax to Wall Street brokers, which has generated between $6 billion and $16 billion a year over the last decade. He also wants to a more progressive state income tax, including graduated brackets on multi-millionaire incomes, which he said would yield $10 billion a year in additional revenues.

Hawkins supports the congestion pricing proposal in the Fix NYC Higher-Range Plan. Based on an $11.52 round-trip fee into the Central Business District below 60th Street, it will generate $1.5 billion a year. He said Cuomo was wrong earlier this year to pull back from the congestion pricing proposal from his own Fix NYC panel and settle for just a fee on for-hire vehicles.

Hawkins said a state carbon tax that makes corporate fossil-fuel polluters pay for the damages they cause to air quality and the climate would also generate significant revenue for clean energy investments, including public transit to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution from fossil-fueled vehicles. A recent studyshowed that a carbon tax proposed by NY Renews – starting at $35 per ton in 2021 and rising to $75 per ton in 2030 – would generate an average of $7.1 billion annually over ten years. After 25% is used as rebate to consumers, it would average $5.3 billion annually for clean energy investments, including mass transit. The Greens helped draft a more robust carbon tax bill (A107/S2846) that was introduced in the state legislature in January. It would start at $35 per ton and rise $15 a year for 10 years to $185 a ton, with 60% of the revenues rebated to low-to-moderate income people.

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