For Uber and NYS Dems, the great suburban showdown

A little extra: A proposed $1 surcharge on Long Island Uber rides may be coming, if NYS Assembly Democrats get their way.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Well, that’s a potential ouch upon our Uber.

Long Islanders waited quite a while for Albany to decide ridesharing was legal in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Now, less than a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation legalizing ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft on the Island, the New York State Assembly is looking to stick an additional $1 surcharge on every ridesharing trip outside New York City.

And that’s on top of the 4 percent statewide tax already imposed on ridesharing trips. By Uber’s math, the extra $1 amounts to a 6 percent tax on the average suburban NYS Uber ride – essentially creating a 10 percent tax on every trip.

That “would make New York State’s ridesharing tax the highest in the country,” the San Francisco-based ridesharing pioneer said in a statement Wednesday.

The $1 surcharge does not apply to most of Manhattan. According to the Assembly bill, the extra bump would be on “every trip that originates and terminates within this state and does not enter into, originate in or terminate in” what the Assembly calls “the TSI zone,” basically Manhattan below 96th Street.

Instead, the Assembly plan includes a $2.75-per-trip surcharge on “transportation services” – including “black cars” and limousines, but not traditional taxis – across a large swath of the Big Apple, with revenues earmarked for city subway and bus upgrades.

The $1 suburban surcharge should raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $48 million, according to Assembly Democrats, who envision a slate of infrastructure improvements.

But Uber – which labeled the $1 bump “a hidden tax hike on upstate, Long Island and Westchester residents” – said that mathematically derived 10 percent tax would mean suburban passengers would pay rates “higher than what New York City riders currently pay.”

Josh Gold: Enough with the taxes already.

This is all far from happening. The new suburban and city surcharges are both part of a one-house budget bill expected to be passed Wednesday by the majority-Democrat NYS Assembly – basically, a jumping-off point for coming budget negotiations with the governor and the State Senate.

And with Cuomo’s master plan for 2018 running up more than $1 billion in tax hikes (despite a much-touted middle class tax cut), the majority-Republican Senate – also expected to pass its own one-house budget Wednesday – has promised to fight any tax increases for the coming fiscal year.

Ostensibly, that would include new surcharges for ridesharing passengers on Long Island and elsewhere. But with the new fiscal year kicking off April 1 and the proposed surcharges inching closer to reality with Wednesday’s Assembly vote, Uber is not sitting idly by.

Looking to rally public support, the ridesharing company – which has introduced new rider-friendly tech and inked new partnerships since rolling onto Long Island last year – took a few strong swings at NYS Assembly Democrats Wednesday, with Uber Senior Policy Manager Josh Gold lambasting “yet another new tax for already overtaxed New Yorkers.”

“The State Assembly budget proposal doubles the taxes on ridesharing for suburban New Yorkers, who have only had access to affordable, reliable transportation options like Uber for eight months,” Gold said. “The new combined ridesharing taxes would be the highest in the country.”