Just under two months after a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's payroll tax was unconstitutional, the MTA announced multiple proposed fare hikes that could take effect as soon as March 1.
The MTA warned following the August ruling that it may be “forced to implement a combination of extreme service cuts and fare hikes," and according to a release from the MTA, most Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad ticket prices could rise between 8.19 to 9.31 percent.
One-way tickets on the LIRR would see a minimum increase of 75 cents, while monthly passes would see a minimum increase of $14. City subway fares will also see an increase, as would bridge and tunnel tolls.
MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota said that the proposed increases are a result of multiple costs "that the MTA does not exercise control over," including costs for debt service, pensions, energy, paratransit, and employee and retiree health care.
"We are grappling with long-term measures to reduce these frustrating and difficult non-discretionary expenses, but today, they are the drivers of the need for a fare and toll increase," Lhota said in a release.
In August, a State Supreme Court judge in Nassau County said in his ruling that because the payroll tax applied to only 12 counties in the state — and neither home rule messages nor two-thirds votes in the State Legislature were obtained — the legislation was passed illegally.
When adopted in 2009, the tax imposed a 34-cent tax for every $100 of payroll.
After considerable outrage throughout the first couple of years of the tax, the MTA rolled it back at the end of 2011, eliminating it entirely for businesses with an annual payroll under $1.25 million. The State Senate had voted for its repeal, though the measure never got the required support from the Assembly.
Reuters reported in August that the State Supreme Court ruling could put the MTA out about $1.5 billion per year, while that cash will remain in the pockets of businesses, municipalities, and taxing districts, many of which called the tax unnecessary, especially considering the level of service on eastern Long Island.
The recent proposals will be subject to modification after the public review process and will be considered for adoption by the MTA Board at its Dec. 19 meeting, according to the MTA.
The MTA will hold eight public hearings between Nov. 7 and 15 throughout the MTA's service territory. The hearings will be held from 5 to 9 p.m., or as long as there are registered speakers who have not yet spoken, whichever is later, the MTA said.
Registration to speak will be open between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at each hearing, or members of the public can register in advance by calling (718) 521-3333 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.