Ramos Defends New Jersey Commuters against Manhattan Borough President’s Call for Reinstatement of a Transit Tax

Assemblyman Responds to Stringer’s Recent Editorial Calling for NJ Commuters to Pay .45% More

Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson) sent a letter on Tuesday to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in response to his Sunday opinion editorial in the Star-Ledger advocating for reinstatement of the commuter tax. Under Stringer’s proposal, the new version of the commuter tax would cost commuters who travel into New York City an extra .45%, which would be put into a transportation trust fund for metro-area transit.

“This proposal is uninspired at best,” said Ramos (D-33). “Shortfalls in transit revenues should not be shouldered by hard-working commuters. Taxpayers deserve a more creative and mutually-beneficial solution.”

“It is unfair and unrealistic to have NJ taxpayers on the Hudson River throw their hard-earned money at this decades-old problem and expect a permanent solution,” concluded Ramos.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

The Honorable Scott M. Stringer, President
Office of Manhattan Borough
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10007

May 22, 2012

Dear Borough President Stringer,

I am writing in respectful opposition of your proposal to reinstate a commuter tax. Individuals rely on public transportation now more than ever to get in, out, and around New York City. While I agree with you that the aging Hudson River crossings and current infrastructures are inadequate for meeting the growing demands of commuters, I disagree that increasing the tax burden on those commuters will be an effective, or fair, solution to the infrastructure problem.

Under your proposal, New Jersey commuters, in addition to several thousand out-of-county New York State and Connecticut residents, would be asked to pay an additional .45% in taxes. While I do not speak for the New York or Connecticut State taxpayers that would be affected by your plan, I do speak for over 200,000 residents of New Jersey’s 33rd Legislative District, which is made up of Hoboken, Jersey City, Weehawken and Union City, several of which commute to New York City daily.

I take issue with your guest editorial in New Jersey’s Star Ledger, and specifically with your comment that this tax would benefit the entire region. I cannot emphasize enough that a tax increase in this economy would not benefit anyone, and would be disastrous for NJ residents, especially since my constituents stand to bear the burden of the proposed tax.

Furthermore, commuters in both states have recently been stuck with a series of burdensome toll and fare hikes from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, the Port Authority’s refusal to cooperate with providing basic information, in light of reports of waste, fraud, abuse, excessive patronage, and overall dysfunction, have been frustrating to say the least. For my constituents in Hoboken, Jersey City, Weehawken and Union City, the toll and fare hikes have been infuriating, and to some, nearly unbearable financially.

I am very aware that New Jersey residents working in New York City represent a significant portion of NYC transit users. However, we already share a disproportionately large and unmanageable portion of the user cost of the transit systems. A commuter driving into the city each day will pay more money in tolls than in income taxes. Simply put, that’s astonishing, and we simply cannot bear another increase in taxes in this environment.

Despite the political arguments to be made against the proposal, my understanding is that you may have to clear the entire New York State Legislature, in addition to other constitutional hurdles, in order to implement such a tax. While I can appreciate and respect the spirit in opening up the debate, I must respectfully insist that this plan be rethought.

In closing, I stand with you on the need to work together and to find an effective, mutually-beneficial solution to the problem of an inadequate transit infrastructure between our states. However, I respectfully disagree that a commuter tax is the best solution to a decades-old problem.

Respectfully,

Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., Assemblyman
Deputy Majority Whip
New Jersey General Assembly
33rd Legislative District