Less than a year after the largest tax increase in Connecticut history, Gov. Dannel P. Malloyand Fairfield County legislators say now is not the time for even more taxes.
That would explain their strong reaction Tuesday to talk of reinstating the much-dreaded New York City commuter tax.
The issue arose when the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, called this week for re-establishing the tax that had been repealed by the New York State legislature in 1999. Stringer, a Democrat, is among the leading candidates for mayor of New York City, which could receive as much as $725 million a year if the tax goes back on the books.
The tax would apply to anyone who lives in Connecticut — or New Jersey or anywhere else outside the five boroughs of New York City — but works in the city.
The tax of 0.45 percent on earned income would cost about $350 a year for a person earning $75,000 a year and $450 for a worker earning $100,000 a year. An estimated 800,000 workers from the key commuting areas of Fairfield County, Long Island, Westchester County and New Jersey paid the tax.
"The governor does not support reinstating the commuter tax, nor does he favor raising any other taxes," said Andrew Doba, Malloy's spokesman. "No one questions the need to fund mass transportation projects throughout our region. But enacting a tax that affects traffic moving in only one direction is unfair."
House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk blasted Stringer as a publicity seeker.
"It's a cheap political ploy on the part of this guy who's trying to get some attention to run for mayor," Cafero said.
Rep. Lile R. Gibbonsof Old Greenwich said the tax would be levied on top of other costs that Fairfield County commuters encounter on their way to jobs in Manhattan.
"You're already paying New York State income tax, and it's substantial," Gibbons said. "This is a slap-in-the-face tax. Metro-North is the most expensive commuter railroad, per mile, in the country."
Stringer initially told The New York Times about his plan before delivering a speech Tuesday to the Association for a Better New York, an influential group of movers and shakers who are trying to improve the city.
Some insiders said there is very little chance of reinstating the tax because of strong opposition by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a powerful Republican from Rockville Centre, on Long Island, who controls the agenda in the Senate. Skelos helped lead the charge as the key sponsor to repeal the tax back in 1999.
During that debate, the opposition by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was ignored by Skelos and others as senators from both parties were trying to gain an advantage in a special election that year in a New York City suburb.
Despite opposition from Skelos, Stringer clearly has support from Manhattan residents — who would not pay the tax — and transportation advocates who have been pushing for years to improve the city's aging infrastructure.
But throughout the region, there was little support from commuters who would pay the tax. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dismissed the idea as "penny wise and pound foolish," according to The Associated Press.
A major advocate for mass transit, Stringer, 51, is a former state legislator who supports the Second Avenue subway line, now under construction, that has been talked about for decades and will cost billions by the time it finally opens.
Rep. Livvy Floren, who represents Greenwich's "backcountry" neighborhood, said that some Greenwich commuters keep a diary because they pay taxes on the income earned on the days that they are in New York City. The tax, she said, only makes it worse.
"I think it's a terrible idea," Floren said.
Jim Cameron, the longtime president of the Metro-North railroad commuter council, who was speaking for himself and not the council, also questioned the move.
"While I don't mind paying my fair share for upkeep and repairs of mass transit in New York City on which I depend, I don't like the fact that New York City and New York State see Connecticut as deep pockets waiting to be picked," said Cameron, a Darien resident. "If they want our money, give us some say on those train operations."
In a countermove, both Cameron and Rep. Pamela Sawyer, a Bolton Republican, said that Connecticut could impose a "reverse commuter" tax on all of the workers from Manhattan and other boroughs who now travel to work at Greenwich hedge funds and in the tall office towers in Stamford at financial giants like UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Floren agreed that there has been a huge influx of workers into the local office buildings as some of the financial firms have moved out of Manhattan.
"We have more people coming into Greenwich than going out," Floren said, "and it's been that way for 10 years."
Earlier this year, Connecticut travelers dodged a levy from another neighboring state when federal authorities frustrated Rhode Island's plan to place toll booths on I-95 in Hopkinton, near the Connecticut border. Connecticut officials had been concerned that new tolls so close to the state line would have hurt tourism and commerce here and contributed to congestion on local roads.