Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County), Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-Rockland County), and Assemblyman Chris Eachus (D-New Windsor) gathered with local community leaders to provide a major update on the multi-year endeavor to close the MTA “value gap” that has long mistreated Orange and Rockland taxpayers and riders. Most recently, this effort includes the successful move to freeze West-of-Hudson fares amidst an otherwise across-the-board fare hike within the MTA system.
In each of the previous two rounds of MTA fare hike proposals – this summer and in 2019 – the legislators successfully worked with the MTA to keep west-of-Hudson ticket prices unchanged despite increases everywhere else in the system, including the Long Island Railroad, east-of-Hudson Metro-North, NYC subways, and NYC bus transit.
Additionally, at the start of this year, the Governor proposed a 47% increase to the MTA payroll tax, a draconian and unfair surcharge that has seriously harmed west-of-Hudson businesses since its original enactment in 2009. With Skoufis leading opposition to the tax hike in the Senate and Zebrowski and Eachus doing so in the Assembly, they were successful in exempting Orange and Rockland counties’ businesses from the increase; the increase was ultimately confined to New York City only.
“For far too long, our taxpayers have subsidized the MTA and received nothing but inadequate service and substantial delays,” said Skoufis. “These meaningful wins are a major step in the right direction towards ensuring our Senate District gets its fair share, our taxpayers are respected, and we are no longer treated as the ATM for the MTA.”
“This year’s state budget solidified the MTA and recognized the concerns of west of Hudson commuters, with capital investments into our transit system and no increase to the payroll tax,” said Zebrowski, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. “The recent fare freeze announcement is another victory for residents who for too long have not had the services they deserve. I thank Senator Skoufis and Assemblymember Eachus for their continued partnership to deliver results for west of Hudson commuters.”
“West-of-Hudson commuters know all too well the chronic issues of long wait times, zero direct train service to NYC, and the large tax bill that comes along with it,” said Eachus. “I am proud to stand strong alongside my colleagues Senator Skoufis and Assemblymember Zebrowski to deliver these critical investments to our communities by the MTA, and continue to fight to ensure Orange and Rockland receive parity for the services that we already pay for.”
These wins come on the heels of the most comprehensive five-year capital program that west-of-Hudson communities have ever seen, resulting in taxpayers and riders getting far more of their fair share from the MTA. Most notably, the agency will soon be constructing two sets of passing sidings, at a cost of over $100 million, to allow for two-way train traffic in Orange County which currently only has one track along the Port Jervis line. These miles-long sidings will be located in the Tuxedo and Middletown areas, significantly increasing train schedule capacity once completed.
The legislators acknowledged the new partnership with the MTA and their willingness to begin paying far greater attention to west-of-Hudson taxpayers and riders. Skoufis, Zebrowski, and Eachus pledged to continue fighting until the region’s “value gap” is completely closed, resulting in $1 of service for every $1 in payments received from the two counties’ taxpayers and riders.