Sorry for the title. I've been reading the Onion again. On the other hand, the MTA would hardly be stopped from harvesting cabbies by moral or humanitarian considerations.
Charged by the voters of San Francisco to take over the administration of taxicabs and help improve service, the leaders of the MTA (who owe their jobs to Gavin Newsom) have ignored the directive and have chosen instead to use taxicab drivers as "assets" to balance the MTA's bloated budget. Instead of harvesting the drivers themselves, the MTA intends to harvest their incomes.
- Before the MTA even officially even took over, Malcom Heinicke of the MTA Board, introduced Mayor Newsom's plan to take all the medallions away from the cab owners and sell them at an auction - with the city keeping "most of the money." (See Millionaire Mayor's Plan to Bail Out San Francisco 3/9/09.)
- Since then they've floated numerous back-door scenarios including one where they would charge medallion holders a $1,000 per month users fee. In other words, they would tax the medallion holders 50% of their income.
- Finally comes the official 2009 MTA budget where they plan to suck-up cab drivers income with a two pronged approach.
- They would get $0.5 million in taxicab permit fees. If I understand this correctly and my math is correct this works out to about $100 per driver. The current fee is $65. I guess that's not too bad. Owner drivers already also pay an additional $1,000 per year in medallion fees.
- The MTA intends to raise $5 million to $20 million from a Taxicab Pilot Transferability Program. What does it mean? Well, we're not not sure and either is the MTA. Or, more likely, they are sure but they're not saying. There are two possibilities:
- The MTA would raise $5 million by selling the right to auction their taxicabs to 100 current drivers at a fee of $50,000 a piece. That's right! The medallion holders would pay in advance for the right to sell their cabs with no idea of how much an auction might actually bring. The MTA estimates the figure at $200,000 meaning that they want to charge the owners a 25% transfer fee. Medallion transfer fees in New York and Chicago are 5%.
- The MTA would raise $20 million by selling 100 new medallions themselves for an estimated $200,000 a piece. That is to say that they would put more cabs on the street during the worst recession in seventy years - a time when the cab business is down more than 50% and drivers are already having trouble making minimum wage. The MTA would also be undermining the value of the medallions already on the street.
There are many things that can be said about this but I'll restrict myself only to expressions that don't include profanity.
- Given what we know about the MTA, do you think that they'll go for the $5 million or the $20 million? (Hint. The $20 million balances their budget.)
- Then why the $5 million option? To stroke desperate, aging owner/drivers into thinking that they could finally sell their medallions so that they wouldn't protest the budget. It appears to have worked. Aside from myself, only a handful of owner drivers objected to the line-item.
- What this amounts to is an additional $20 million tax against cab drivers. It is mostly aimed at the owners but many of the people on The List who don't yet own cabs would be hit harder; so let's call it a $20 million tax against 5,000 people = $4,000 per head. Of course this isn't quite accurate because some people would be hit harder than others. But in one way or other the city would be getting the money from the drivers.
- By comparison, the city would gain:
- $28 million from their plan to increase the muni fares of hundreds of thousands of riders.
- $5 million from their plan to increase cable car fares to tens of thousands of tourists.
- $11 million from their plan to increase the price of 1 day to 7 day passports effecting tens of thousands of riders.
- $7 million by cutting overtime in half - meaning that they still intend to pay $7 million of overtime.
Does this make sense? Is it fair? Is it moral? Do you care?