Rockland County executive Scott Vanderhoef said the county will revive its own lawsuit against a transit payroll tax after a court ruled yesterday that the tax is illegal.
The county filed its own lawsuit in 2010, claiming the 2009 payroll tax implemented by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was unconstitutional. The case was rejected in state Supreme Court and wasn’t appealed as the county waited for a ruling on a similar lawsuit filed by neighboring counties.
Now, Vanderhoef said, the county will file its appeal armed with Thursday’s court decision.
“We have held the appeal until this decision. So we will now appeal it and let the cases come together,” he told Gannett’s Albany Bureau today. “This is great news. I don’t consider myself a legal expert, but it seems to me that there was some strong constitutional grounds, and this judge obviously felt it was true.”
Vanderhoef said Rockland in particular has been hurt by the tax. The county has argued that it doesn’t get as much MTA service as other counties. The county claims it gives $42 million more in taxes to the MTA than it receives in services, and county employers pay another $18 million a year through the payroll tax.
The state Legislature in 2009 imposed the payroll tax on the 12-county MTA region. It brings in about $1.3 billion a year to keep solvent the financially struggling agency, which provides transit services to New York City and its suburbs.
Justice R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. said late Thursday that the payroll tax a “special law” passed by a 60 percent majority vote in the Assembly and also needed a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which it did not receive.
“This law should have been, according to the state Constitution, passed with either a Home Rule message or by message of necessity with two-thirds vote in each house. This did not occur, therefore this law was passed unconstitutionally,” Cozzens wrote.
The lawsuit was filed by Nassau County, and Westchester and Putnam counties were among counties that later joined the lawsuit.
The MTA has vowed to appeal.
“The MTA strongly believes that yesterday’s ruling from Nassau Supreme Court is erroneous,” the agency said in a statement. “We will vigorously appeal it and we expect it will be overturned, since four similar Supreme Court cases making the same argument were previously dismissed.”