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Newly elected Westchester Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R,I,C Goldens Bridge) was joined by several Assembly colleagues Monday to once again call on State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to conduct a forensic audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and for the results to be made public.
Shortly before the news conference, officials with DiNapoli's office notified Castelli that his office has been conducting such audits of the MTA over the past 12 months and has identified various areas of cost savings.
The Westchester Assemblyman called on DiNapoli to release the findings.
Said Castelli, "If the Comptroller's office has the ammunition needed to help solve some of the problems at the MTA, then he needs to share those with lawmakers and MTA Chairman Jay Walder." He adds, "Westchester County should not have been forced to pay the MTA payroll tax before a full audit was ever conducted."
About a thousand people are on hand this evening for Westchester County's second annual Tea Party that's being held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.
Organizer Gary Murphy says the protest is not about party lines, but rather solidarity, with protestors calling for lower taxes and decreased Federal, State and local spending.
Protestors -- some of them even wearing tri-cornered hats evoking the Revolutionary Era-- chanted, sang songs and carried such signs as "Don't Tread on Me," "Shrink Big Government" and "Starve the Beast" in the peaceful protests. There were no arrests.
Howard Hellwinkel of North Salem said "We are a group of people who are unhappy with the way Washington has been operating. We want to see the Country return to what the founding fathers intended."
Photo Credit: Robin Glantz-Murphy
By a unanimous vote, the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed a resolution calling on the NYS legislature to immediately repeal the MTA Payroll Tax authorized last year. The resolution, which was sponsored by County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) also calls for a full independent forensic audit of the MTA at their own expense. Kaplowitz says the payroll tax of 34 cents for every $100 earned "Lessens New York's economic competitiveness and hurts local businesses, including non profit organizations, that are already struggling financially." Said Kaplowitz, "This tax also acts as a jobs deterrent as well as potentially leading to layoffs." Kaplowitz also testified Monday evening at an MTA public hearing held in White Plains.
State Senator Vincent Leibell (R,C-I-Patterson) and Assemblyman Greg Ball (R,C,I-Patterson) were in Yorktown Heights yesterday calling for an immediate repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax. The two lawmakers were joined by local Not-for-Profit Groups to call on Albany to take action.
Governor David Paterson is calling for a halving of the MTA Payroll Tax. Businesses currently must pay .34% per $100 of payroll for each calendar quarter. Leibell says cutting the tax in half isn't enough and that the tax is driving businesses out of New York State, adding "They are fed up. They've had it. They no longer want to live or work in a state with tax burdens like we have in New York."
"The impact of the MTA Tax on non-profits is huge," said Pete Bardunias, Executive Director of the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce, "not to mention that it impacts each and every donor who supports these important organizations. A part of their donation dollars now goes to support the spending excesses of the MTA instead of our neighbors who need it the most."
Peekskill School Superintendent Judith Johnson says property owners could face a tax increase of 6 percent or more and the possible layoffs of dozens of teachers. Johnson, who is preparing the 2010-2011 school budget, says the district is facing a $5.5 million shortfall in its 75 million dollar budget for 2010-2011. She warns that that number might go higher, depending on additional cutbacks in state aid.
Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Westchester, 91st A.D.) has announced his support of Governor David Paterson's proposed changes to the MTA Payroll Tax, that would effectively cut in half, the current 0.34% (.0034) payroll tax on businesses in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Latimer says the tax is "inherently unfair" adding "the money only benefits residents from our area who work in big corporations in NYC. Why should a deli in Peekskill pay the same rate as a major corporation based in Manhattan?" Latimer is predicting an uphill battle in Albany on the issue, one that will likely pit representatives from NYC against those from Westchester and the Hudson Valley.
Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I - Patterson) was in Yorktown yesterday urging school districts, local governments, non-profit organizations and small businesses to join him in the first step for a historic Tax Revolt he's planning to protest the so-called MTA Payroll tax.
The Assemblyman is asking those affected by the tax to fill out a symbolic check with the amount they have to pay toward the MTA bailout and then bring it with them to a planned rally on April 15th.
Ball called the tax "onerous," adding "We want his payroll tax recinded. Period, end of story."
The "checks" he says, are available on his website, AuditTheMTA.com.
Around the Country
- Southwest to Cancel Flights as Jets Checked for Cracks - BusinessWeek
- Schumer: Dems slicing budget with scalpel, Tea Party using meat ax - CNN (blog)
- Duke lacrosse accuser arrested in boyfriend's stabbing - CNN International
- House GOP: $4 trillion in cuts - CNN
- Bachmann bids for 'bama eyes - Seattle Post Intelligencer
Around the Planet
- Afghans Continue Protests Over US Quran Burning - Voice of America
- Japan's nuclear workers try to trace leak, dump radioactive water - Los Angeles Times
- OSCE raps Kazakh election, presses for reforms - Reuters
- Newsmaker: Yemen survivor Saleh juggles forces to keep power - Reuters
- France says finds bodies in Atlantic crash wreckage - Reuters