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Manhattan BP Stringer Wants Revived Commuter Tax To Fill MTA Coffers

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Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is saying in a Tuesday speech how he wants to bring back the commuter tax to help fund the region's public transportation system, but the likely candidate for mayor may have a tough time making his transit dreams a reality. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

The city's subways are crowded, the system is showing its age, fares have gone up and service has been cut back.

In a Tuesday speech, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will propose bringing back the commuter tax to boost the budget of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"I don't want us to have a first-rate city with a second-rate transportation system. I am tired of the old ideas. I am tired of people saying it can't be done," said Stringer.

The tax on people who work in the city and live elsewhere was repealed in 1999. City politicians have long pressed for it to be reinstated but they have not been successful. Reviving it requires approval from Albany lawmakers.

Stringer, a likely mayoral candidate in 2013, said he is hopeful.

"When Mike Bloomberg became mayor, people said there will never be mayoral control of the school system. Bam, it happened. When Andrew Cuomo became governor, people said we will never have budgets on time. Now, he was able to fix that," said Stringer.

The borough president said he wants the commuter tax used for the MTA's regular operating expenses.

His transit plan also calls for the creation of a so-called mass transit infrastructure bank, to be funded by the Mortgage Recording Tax. The tax is imposed every time properties in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority region are bought and sold.

"We must create a steady revenue stream for the MTA," said Stringer.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, an advocate for transit riders, said he is pleased that Stringer is focusing on public transportation.

"I think the most important thing is that on the eve of a mayoral election in 2013, you have a major contender talking about how they would make subways and buses better for the average New Yorker," Russianoff said.

Stringer is raising money for a citywide office, but when pressed, he is playing it coy, refusing to say what exactly he is running for.

"Right now, I'm running to catch a subway," he joked.

Perhaps he was looking to discuss his plans with other riders.

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