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NEW YORK CITY-Seeking to avoid the fare hikes and service cuts that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to close a budget gap, comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. on Sunday proposed a weight-based registration fee for motor vehicles. He also called for the reinstatement of the commuter tax, which was repealed in 1999.

In a release, Thompson says his weight-based fee plan would generate more than $1 billion in annual regional revenue for the MTA while promoting energy independence and reducing parking problems in New York City neighborhoods. Additionally, Thompson says, bringing back the commuter tax would produce approximately $762 million in annual revenue. The tax generated as much as $360 million annually in the 33 years it was in effect.

Thompson’s weight-based fee plan would cover private and commercial vehicles in all 12 New York counties served by the MTA. It would assess a fee of $100 for vehicles weighing 2,300 lbs. or less, plus $0.09 for every pound of curb weight over 2,300. For example, the 2,293-lb. Toyota Yaris would cost an additional $100 to register, while the nearly three-ton Lincoln Navigator would cost an additional $430. The fee would be assessed on top of the flat vehicle use tax of $30 every two years and existing weight-based state registration fees.

The fee could be phased in over time, thereby allowing residents to take the fee into account when deciding what vehicle to buy, Thompson says in a release, noting that such decisions would be driven in part by considerations of fuel efficiency. He adds that New Yorkers who own cars generally have higher incomes and that lower-income New Yorkers would be less affected by the fee structure than by higher transit fares.

“Once again, the MTA is looking to New Yorkers to cover its budget shortfalls while simultaneously cutting services and delaying key projects,” Thompson says in a statement. “Instead of asking New Yorkers to dig deeper into their pockets to ride the subway or bus, we need creative approaches to address our transit needs.” That sentiment is shared by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, whose executive director, Kate Slevin, tells GlobeSt.com, “We applaud him for making these proposals. We want there to be additional measures to increase revenue aside from raising fares.”

Slevin made that point in her testimony during the Nov. 20 MTA board meeting where the authority’s 2009 budget plan was announced. She tells GlobeSt.com that while her testimony did not specifically endorse the revival of the commuter tax, “Everybody who uses the city’s services has to share in the pain of higher costs, and this would be a way to share it equitably.”

Unlike the weight-based fee, the commuter tax would apply to commuters from outside New York State. Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut has vowed to fight the tax, and New York Gov. David Paterson has reportedly stated his opposition to it.

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