Rockland County proposes to secede from the M.T.A., and a former mayor rolls his eyes

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Ed Koch with police officers in 1986. (Ben Mormino via facebook)
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Once again, Rockland County executive C. Scott Vanderhoef is proposing to take his county out of the commuter-rich 12-county region whose taxes support the M.T.A.

Ed Koch, who was mayor of New York City from 1978-1989, has seen this before, and it doesn't seem to annoy him any less than it ever did.

"There are no free lunches," Koch told Capital. "And if you want transportation, you have to pay for it."

On Wednesday, Vanderhoef released the county's latest taxpayer-funded study purporting to show that the county pays more into the M.T.A. than it gets back. The report found, more precisely, that for every dollar that county residents and businesses pay to support the M.T.A., it gets only $.62 in return.

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“The report provides the solid foundation and updated data we need to now explore the realities of withdrawal,” Vanderhoef told reporters

Such a move would require the approval of the state legislature, which is unlikely to grant it, and Vanderhoef has been making such gestures for years now. He did it in 1997, 1998 and 2000. He did it again in 2009 after former governor David Paterson approved a new dedicated revenue stream for the beleaguered authority, known as the payroll mobility tax, something suburban legislators, particularly ones on Long Island, abhor.

"Many of the counties outside of New York are constantly complaining," said Koch.

But, he continued, "If you don't have these revenue sources, the M.T.A. will not be able to continue with the same schedules, with the upgraded facilites and so forth. So I have no sympathy for those that want to opt out."

"It's the usual feeling of 'Gee, why do I have to pay," he said. "You have to pay because you have to spread the cost."