On Wednesday, March 22, 2017 Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming paid a visit to New York State officials at the Capitol Building in Albany to advocate for funding for Suffolk County’s public transportation system during state budget discussions. This is the second trip Fleming has made to Albany during her first term as County Legislator. She was joined by County Legislator Kate Browning and the Long Island Lobby Coalition.
“There are a number of areas in the New York State budget where Suffolk County fails to receive their fair share” stated Legislator Fleming. “Ensuring that my constituents are seeing benefits from all of the tax dollars they contribute is one of my top priorities, as well as ensuring that we are moving in the right direction with our public transportation efforts. These concerns have become especially critical since three county bus routes were eliminated in my district. I am thankful to Legislator Browning for joining me in lobbying state officials.”
“For decades Suffolk County has sent more tax dollars to Albany than we receive in return for services,” stated Legislator Browning. “One of the greatest disparities lies with State transportation funding. Suffolk County has been paying tens of millions of dollars locally to support our buses while New York State subsidizes other Counties. Whether it be the MTA payroll tax or proposed taxes on ridesharing businesses, our tax dollars should stay here in Suffolk County so we can provide the vital services our residents need. I am hopeful that my strong message along with Legislator Fleming resonated with State officials, so we finally get our fair share in this year’s state budget.”
The Long Island Lobby Coalition is comprised of a number of organizations that create a platform and organize an annual Albany Lobby Day, for the purpose of meeting with Assembly, Senate, and Executive representatives to advocate issues important to Long Islanders. Fleming was appreciative of being included in the group’s efforts.
During her visit to the State Capitol, Legislator Fleming met with Senator Ken LaValle; Senator John Brooks; a representative of Senator David Carlucci; Assemblyman Phil Ramos; Assemblyman Fred Thiele; Assemblyman Steve Englebright; Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick; the NYS Senate Independent Democratic Conference; the Long Island Assembly Delegation; and representatives of the Assembly Ways & Means committee including Anthony Rodolakis, Director of Tax and Economic Studies, Thomas Hodgkins, Deputy Director of Tax Studies and Eric Reimer, Legislative Fiscal Analyst.
A call for a more equitable return of MTA payroll tax dollars to suburban counties has been a focus for both Long Island representatives and state legislators representing the area since the inception of the tax. Under the current structure, Long Island residents are contributing more than half of what City residents pay per capita for a system with less infrastructure and much lower operating costs. Senator Murphy and Assemblyman Ramos have both introduced a bill to amend the tax law, the state finance law and the public authorities law in relation to guaranteed shares of revenue of the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax. If approved by both bodies and signed by the Governor, suburban counties would receive an amount sufficient to cover 50% of their local share of operation and maintenance costs for public bus service, and 50% of station operation and maintenance costs.
Another area where Suffolk County has failed to receive their fair share is in State Transportation Operating Assistance (STOA) funding. The formula is written in a way that provides Suffolk with less funding than other suburban counties in the state because of its large geographic size, despite similarities in population. Legislators Fleming and Browning are working with the Budget Review Office and the Department of Public Works to develop a more equitable formula for consideration by the state legislators.
During this legislative session, the state representatives have been considering policies for the expansion of ride sharing state-wide. The Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly are each considering proposals that differ in the percent of tax collected, and how it should be distributed. It is the goal of Legislator Fleming to ensure that the adopted version of the law returns an equitable portion of the revenue to Suffolk County.