State Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County) and Assemblymen Kenneth Zebrowski (D-Rockland County) and Chris Eachus (D-New Windsor) met with community leaders this week to update them 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 percent increase to the MTA payroll tax, what the local lawmakers called 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 in the press release detailing the efforts. “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.”
Eachus added: “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. I (will) continue to fight to ensure Orange and Rockland receive parity for the services that we already pay for.”
Five-year capital program
These wins come on the heels of the most comprehensive five-year capital program that the west-of-Hudson has 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.
A willingness to pay attention to the west-of-Hudson
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.