ALBANY — If Congress doesn’t provide federal funds to struggling states hit hard by coronavirus, New Yorkers are going to feel it in their wallets.
Gov. Cuomo warned Tuesday that higher property taxes and increases in subway fares and bridge and tunnel tolls could be in the cards unless Washington lawmakers approve money to assist states that have seen unprecedented revenue losses in recent months.
“The money needs to come from somewhere,” Cuomo said during a morning call with reporters. “There is nothing conceptual or abstract about this exercise. It is going to have a dramatic practical effect on New Yorkers and I want New Yorkers to know the consequences because I want our federal representatives held accountable.”
Cuomo said New Yorkers could see an increase in property and school taxes, increases in LIRR, MTA and toll fares as well as a slow down in construction projects at LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports if state and local funding isn’t included in the next coronavirus relief package approved by Congress.
“I just wish the consequences weren’t so high,” he added.
The governor’s dire predictions come a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS, Act.
The $1 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill includes some money for schools as they struggle with the idea of reopening this fall, and other measures, but leaves out local aid for states that was part of a package passed by House Democrats over two months ago.
Cuomo targeted not only Senate Republicans, but called Dems in Congress and on Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, to fight for state aid.
“If Washington plays politics, if the House members don’t stand firm, if our two senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, don’t stand firm, you’re going to see New Yorkers paying a higher subway and LIRR fare,” he said.
Cuomo has so far resisted the idea of raising taxes on the New York’s wealthier residents despite the $13 billion budget hole the state is currently facing.
Advocates and progressive lawmakers have repeatedly called on the governor to consider raising revenue by targeting the rich.
“It is shameful that a Democratic Governor is floating higher MTA fares for working New Yorkers who can’t afford another expense, rather than asking the wealthiest to pay more,” Strong Economy for All Coalition executive director Michael Kink said in response to Cuomo’s warnings. “It’s time to stop protecting billionaires and start protecting working New Yorkers.”
Transit advocates also warned against raising fares at a time when ridership has plummeted due to coronavirus concerns.
“Fare hikes cannot balance New York’s public transit budget,” Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein said. “With ridership low due to COVID, higher fares would drive even more people off public transit, worsening its fiscal situation. A transit death spiral in transit-dependent New York would tank our recovery and drag the national economy down with us.”
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