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Castelli Supports Repeal of MTA Payroll Tax

This story was updated to include comment from David Buchwald.

HARRISON, N.Y. – New York State Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R) said he was glad to hear the Wednesday decision of a Nassau County Supreme Court Justice that the MTA Payroll Tax was unconstitutional.

He was one of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's fiercest opponents on the issue and had joined a lawsuit against the MTA with Senator Greg Ball (R), Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and others.

“Since being elected, I have fought for a full repeal of the onerous MTA payroll tax, a forensic audit of the agency, and legal and legislative action to see this mandate done away with,” Castelli said in a written statement. “This year we repealed the tax for schools and 80% of small businesses, and now the Courts have fully eliminated this unconstitutional tax once and for all.”

Castelli and his office pointed to the MTA bailout bill, which they said cost the state $2.26 billion, and later led to the payroll tax. “In the past decade, the MTA has been involved in multiple scandals involving the mismanagement of funds, and in response to Castelli’s vociferous outcry for an audit of the public authority, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has been conducting a series of audits which have uncovered even more fraud, waste, and abuse,” said Castelli in the statement.

David Buchwald, Castelli’s opponent in the November elections, and chairperson of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council, was criticized in the statement.

“My opponent, Mr. Buchwald, hand-picked by Governor Paterson in 2008 to serve on the MTA Metro North Commuter Council board which he now chairs, has been deathly silent on the mismanagement which caused the 2009 MTA bailout, increased fares and fees on New York’s commuters and created this job-killing payroll tax in the first place during his time on the board,” Castelli said in the statement. “It is time for him to account for his lack of action on this important public service issue.”

In a statement praising the tax repeal, Buchwald said he has “been a vocal opponent of the payroll tax, and has stood up and fought against fare increases that overburdened customers.” The candidate rebuked Castelli’s comments.

"At the same time, we're seeing the kind of campaign Robert Castelli wants to run, and it isn't pretty,” said Buchwald. “He's establishing a pattern of making any wild, untrue accusation he wants if he thinks it benefits his campaign – without even the pretense of backing it up with facts.”

He said he believes a “dedicated funding stream for mass transit that doesn't unfairly burden Westchester businesses, governments and taxpayers or riders, and doesn't undermine public support for transportation” is necessary.

"I hope the MTA will work with concerned citizens and advocates like myself to find a way to better serve all of us, the MTA included," said Buchwald.

The justice overturned the MTA payroll tax because it violates the state constitution, since it occurs in only 12 counties and does not benefit the entire state.

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