New York mayor Bill de Blasio plans 'millionaire's tax' to mend subway system

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The mayor of New York has proposed a “millionaire’s tax” to fix the city’s crumbling subway system.

Bill de Blasio said he wanted to raise $800 million (£613 million) a year from raising taxes on married couples who make more than $1 million a year and individuals on more than $500,000.

The mayor said “people do not want to see this madness continue” on the subways and that part of the money raised would be used for half-price Metrocards for poorer New Yorkers.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo also suggested reviving the idea of congestion pricing on traffic, an idea which former mayor Michael Bloomberg tried but failed to implement.

The measures are designed to solve the worst public transport crisis facing New Yorkers in a generation. Delays have tripled to 70,000 a month after years of under-investment and the city is going through a “summer of hell” amid widespread engineering work. At a press conference, Mr de Blasio, 56, said he wanted to raise the city’s top state income tax rate from about 3.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent. In 2018 alone, this would bring in $700 million, rising to $820 million by 2020 and would affect an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 New Yorkers, less than one per cent of the city’s population.

Some $250 million of the money would fund half-price Metrocards for 800,000 of the poorest people in the city. Mr de Blasio, a Democrat who came to power promising to tackle inequality, said: “Rather than sending the bill to working families and subway and bus riders already feeling the pressure of rising fares and bad service, we are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra to help move our transit system into the 21st century.”

The plan would have to be approved by state lawmakers and is likely to be opposed by Governor Cuomo. He and Mr de Blasio can barely stand each other and the dispute over New York’s transport system has worsened their relationship. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is owned by New York state, meaning that Mr Cuomo is technically responsible, but he and the mayor have been blaming each other over its problems.

Mr Cuomo’s aides said he was examining raising tolls on traffic on bridges over the East River and the Midtown Tunnel into Manhattan to raise around $1.3 billion. The governor is expected to unveil more details during his re-election campaign next year.

MTA chairman Joe Lhota has said any extra money would be spent on fixing signals, securing power sources and maintaining track and possibly removing seats on subway trains to make room for more passengers.

In the long term, he wants $8 billion in capital investment to avert another transport crisis, a sum that would be met after several years of Mr de Blasio’s millionaire’s tax.

Mr Lhota said in a statement: “We need short-term emergency financing now. Emergency train repairs can’t wait on what the state legislature may or may not do next year.”

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