The National Federation of Independent Businesses is stepping up its criticism of Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Mamaroneck, Westchester County, for muddled statements made about the so-called MTA payroll tax.
Oppenheimer said in a debate last week with her Republican opponent Bob Cohen that she was opposed to the tax but had no choice when it came to voting for it.
Westchester County is considering suing over the constitutionality of the deeply unpopular tax, which affects residents in the service area of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority service areas.
Later, Oppenheimer said on WVOX in New Rochelle that she “didn’t support it nor do I know anyone who likes this tax.”
She added in an interview that she didn’t recall whether it ever came up for a vote on the floor of the Senate.
“I’m not sure it came up for a vote, but it was a proposal that we had to do, we had no choice,” Oppenheimer said.
The bill was voted on in May 2009 and passed by a narrow two-vote margin, with Oppenheimer voting yes.
The NFIB, which has endorsed Cohen, a Scarsdale businessman, slammed Oppenheimer for the statement.
The organization’s state director, Mike Elmendorf, issued this statement:
Not only did she label that claim ‘specious,’ but she seemed not to know what she had actually voted for by wrongly suggesting that the MTA Payroll Tax was part of the state budget. Senator Oppenheimer went on to imply that as a result, voting ‘no’ on this measure would have shut down state government because Senate Republicans refused to cast any votes in support of higher taxes. Most shockingly, in a radio appearance today on WVOX, Senator Oppenheimer said, ‘I certainly didn’t support it’ and ‘I’m not sure it came up for a vote.’ We’d like to take this opportunity to respectfully correct the Senator on the facts, since she seems to have some confusion about what she voted for and when.
Oppenheimer spokesman Tony Kelso responded to clarify her statements:
“Senator Oppenheimer has always indicated her unhappiness with the MTA tax package, and clearly stated that when she voted for the measure—a point she has repeated during the debates. In 2009 the Senate was presented with only one proposal to support the MTA at a time of financial crisis and proposed draconian fare increases. At the time it passed the Senator indicated her preference for other revenue sources such as tolls on the East River bridges. Her reference on the radio interview was meant for the other alternatives and fees, which did not come to a vote. She supports repeal of the MTA payroll tax.”