Saturday, March 7, 2009

MTA meets the Hudson River Tea Party

We all agree that our state and its citizens face a perilous economic time. We understand that we must sacrifice. We know that we must improve and make more efficient our mass transportation system. We appreciate that we have to make difficult choices. However, we should not confuse difficult choices with bad ones.

I do not accept the Ravitch Commission proposals as an exercise in good decision making. I find it troubling that as our state and nation experience among the most difficult and complex economic challenges since the "Great Depression," that our state seeks to increase the burden on those struggling the most.

As national leaders advocate spending billions in federal resources to stimulate our economy, New York and the MTA seek to siphon those dollars out of our pockets; devastating small businesses, forcing increased property taxes and stalling any hope for sustained economic prosperity.That my constituents and the hundreds of business owners, government, school and civic leaders who have contacted me are insulted by the process leading up to today's hearing is a substantial understatement. They read, as I did, Mr. Sander's comments of February 25th that it was "imperative that the Legislature act this week." How should our communities respond to fact that these comments were made five days prior to tonight's hearing? How should they react to the thought that their opinions do not matter? I suspect the tea bags speak for themselves.

On February 12th in the New York Post, Mr. Sander stated he listens "to a lot of people and when we talk of 20 to 30 percent fare increases and draconian service cuts people get upset." I suspect they would.The people I represent are equally upset and I wonder why their concerns do not engender equal consideration.

Placing aside my anger with the process leading up to today let me reiterate that we cannot accept yet one more tax placed upon us. Our residents and business owners already contribute tens of millions of dollars through unfair taxation. A mortgage tax, transfer tax, sales tax, petroleum tax, phone bill surcharge along with station maintenance charges to County governments exact enough fiscal pain on our already struggling economy.The actions you advocate cannot be considered in a vacuum, nor can they be implemented without harsh and certain economic damage. Our economy cannot shoulder the additional burden; our families cannot afford the resulting property tax increases and our communities cannot accept unjust taxation.

The Poughkeepsie Journal referred to this plan as "absurd." I consider it and the process employed to bring about a solution offensive. New York and the MTA are in this position because we spent more than we had and taxed more than we should. Continuing to do the same will not deliver new results. We must act boldly; we must implement reforms, end wasteful spending, demand greater responsibility and provide complete transparency. We must respect the hardworking business owners and families who will live with the consequences of our decisions. For these reasons and so many more, I respectfully request you abandon this approach and consider more appropriate alternatives.