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Feb 8, 2018 4:41 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming Wants Ride-Sharing Tax To Go To County, Not State

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming at Tuesday's public hearing. COURTESY BRIDGET FLEMING
Feb 20, 2018 11:10 AM

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming has proposed a temporary ban on ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, in the county.

At a recent public hearing at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge, she argued that while ride-sharing services offer “undeniable benefits,” both Lyft and Uber desperately require more regulation.

According to State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., Ms. Fleming’s proposal works in conjunction with legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino and Mr. Thiele, which, if approved, would require a 4-percent local tax on ride-sharing revenue to be funneled to Suffolk County and invested in Suffolk County public transportation system. “At least until our critical need for public transportation funding is met,” he added.

Currently, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, receives all of the proceeds of the 4-percent tax, which amounts to roughly $24 million annually, according to Mr. Thiele.

“The bottom line is, we need money for public transportation,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that he was opposed to the move to allow ride-sharing statewide last April. “The goal is to provide better public transport.”

Ms. Fleming noted that in recent months eight Suffolk County bus routes were cut due to a lack of funding, citing a $10 million deficit in the county’s public transportation budget.

“There are such dire needs in the public transportation system,” Ms. Fleming said, stressing that revenue from ride-sharing would significantly reduce the crippling deficit. “We ignored a potential significant revenue source that could have helped folks who are now in the cold because their bus routes were cut.”

She added that when state legislation approved ride-sharing statewide in April, the companies were willing to funnel the surcharges into county funds, but that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office stepped in and pushed to divert the money into state coffers to fund the MTA.

“At the last minute, the state came in and said, ‘Nope—it all goes to state,’” Ms. Fleming said. “It was wrong of New York State to impose a scenario where we could opt out completely or opt in without any control.”

Mr. Thiele agreed: “It took power away from local government and made it a state regulated entity.”

In addition, Ms. Fleming pointed to the county’s new “TransLoc Rider App,” which helps passengers track buses on their phones, noting that even that has suffered from the lack of funding: “When I turned to the county and said, ‘How do we get the word out?’ their response was: ‘We don’t have any funding.’”

Ms. Fleming did not return mutliple follow up phone calls this past week to identify what regulations, besides regulating tax revenue, would be involved if her legislation is approved.

Danielle Filson, an Uber spokesperson, declined to comment on where the funds are directed. But she argued that Ms. Fleming’s proposed ban is a disservice to “thousands of Suffolk County riders,” as well as “the tens of thousands of local drivers who depend on the platform for flexible earning opportunities.”

In a June 2017 report by The Rideshare Guy, an online blog and podcast for users of ride-sharing services, Uber co-founder Garrett Camp estimated that the mobile app provides work to more than 2 million drivers, adding that more than 65 million riders rely on the service worldwide.

Manorville resident Susana Campo is one of those who rely on ride-sharing services. She said she regularly uses the app when she goes out to have a few drinks. “I believe it saves lives,” Ms. Campo said.

She added that her husband, Michael, uses the app at least eight times a month for transportation to and from the train station and airport for work.

Ms. Fleming said last week that it is not her intention to ban ride-sharing completely. “I have no intention of shutting down ride-sharing,” she said. “It’s my hope that a compromise can be reached so local government can ensure that the companies are operating in a way that’s beneficial for everyone.”

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So, this is about taxes, not Uber?

We need the ride sharing companies to pay taxes so that useless apps for buses that no one wants to ride can be rolled out to the public.

Typical Democrat.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 8, 18 6:26 PM
You beat me to it! How like a Democrat -- regulate and tax!

How many other legislative proposals has Ms. Fleming ever made? Mostly she shows up for photo ops and ground-breaking ceremonies.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 8, 18 7:11 PM
Typical progressive politician. Seeking to use the power of government to restrict the free market and pick pockets for government waste.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Feb 8, 18 7:22 PM
4 members liked this comment
Absolutely ridiculous. How about letting the bus riders pay for the buses-which is about just over $2. How could anyone expect to pay for salaries, buses, maintenance, or diesel fuel?! Why is Suffolk giving $2 rides?
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Feb 9, 18 5:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
What about those Republicans.. spend, spend, spend... our kids will be saddled with debt forever. Sad.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Feb 9, 18 8:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
How much money is spent on Suffolk county bus program? How many people are served by that program? What is projected growth? How rigid is this structure to change and meeting needs of low income riders?

What could Uber and Lyft offer in contrast to bus program? Would money be better spent subsidizing rides through them?

Work the problem!
By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on Feb 9, 18 8:51 AM
Bridget remove the ring from your left thumb or you will loose the top of that didget,just saying
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Feb 9, 18 8:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think it is well established now that if you try to go against disruptive technology or services that mostly provide more efficient service to people you are likely on the losing side of that argument. Rather than hold ride-sharing services hostage to the county's beef with state money (which it is right now), why not try another avenue? Can we get some people in office who can find more creative ways to solve emerging problems than to just build roadblocks that try to maintain the status quo?
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Feb 9, 18 9:50 AM
This isn’t about ride-sharing or bus service as such, and it certainly isn’t about cheap shots at Bridget Fleming. It’s about local government getting a fair share of taxes that are paid locally. Ms Fleming’s measure doesn’t target ride-sharing except as a means of stopping the state from grabbing all the tax revenue derived from that activity and giving back zero to Suffolk County for badly needed public transport. It’s a good and bold initiative for which Ms. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 9, 18 9:51 AM
While I agree with you that no one should be taking cheap shots at Bridget personally, the fact remains that the tactic is like holding a gun to the ride-sharing industry and telling the state that you will not put the gun down until you get the money. Not a good public relations image, frankly. There must be a better, smarter way than that, unless that's just you believe that this is politics, county (gangsta)-style. That needs to change as well, then.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Feb 9, 18 10:44 AM
Oh yeah, George. She’s getting credit alright.

This is absolutely one of the best stunts I’ve seen.

The bus system is obviously not self sufficient. If it was a business it would be bankrupt and gone. Instead of trying to grab taxes, how about trying to turn it into a self supporting service? At $2 a ride it obviously is priced too low... Maybe cut some of the fat from management...
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 9, 18 10:46 AM
Soo instead of fostering a service that people want to use lets ban it, tax it, and funnel the money to a terrible bus system that no one wants to use.

Great idea...
By TrueHamptons (33), Sag Harbor on Feb 9, 18 10:42 AM
3 members liked this comment
Beyond dumb. One is used to commute, one is used for leisure. To hold up leisure spending until we can fix commuting issues is just stupid.
By Brandon Quinn (191), Hampton Bays on Feb 9, 18 11:41 AM
Hitchhiking has been against the law for decades because psychopaths were picking up people and accosting them, just like with Uber.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Feb 10, 18 8:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hospitals aren’t self supporting, parks aren’t self supporting, and schools aren’t self supporting, but we need them. Because we have to have them, we support them as a matter of the common good.

It’s the same with public transport; we have to have it. You may not have noticed, but there are lots of people on the East End who can’t yet afford a car and can’t afford ride sharing or cabs either. I’m getting nervous about driving at night with all ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 11, 18 12:56 PM
Actually many, hospitals are self supporting. Southampton Hospital was running a significant profit just before it was bought by SUNY -- when all citizens are required to have health insurance, the hospitals make money. The chief admins of these healthcare organizations make a fortune.

It's only when the government requires emergency rooms in poor neighborhoods to take and care for everyone regardless of their ability to pay that hospitals lose money -- that drain is paid for by all of ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Feb 12, 18 7:12 AM
I missed this when you posted it, but are you suggesting that emergency rooms should deny life-saving care to patients who can't demonstrate an ability to pay?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 27, 18 2:16 PM
The hospital in an area that does not have many corporate and government employees will haemorrhage cash through its emergency room. The more indigent uninsured patients a hospital has, the more show up after the worst effects of illness in the ER, and the worse its finances. Our area is not that area. Southampton Hospital started running a profit after Obamacare and Medicare and Medicaid all kicked in and that's when SUNY Stony Brook swooped it up. Now we're all subsidizing a pool of indigent ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Feb 27, 18 2:49 PM
That's all well and good, but I asked a yes or no question.

To give you my opinion: no, hospitals should not be allowed to deny emergency life-saving treatment to someone in their building for any reason.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 27, 18 2:54 PM
"Emergency life-saving treatment": Here are two case studies:
1) A German tourist is visiting the Hamptons, and is in a car wreck, taken by ambulance to Southampton Hospital. Emergency care: yes. The patient, once stabilized, returns home for care by her local medical professionals and her family.
2) A 9 months pregnant Honduran woman with no pre-natal care presents in labor at the hospital emergency room closest to JFK Airport and gives birth to a baby with severe fetal alcohol syndrome. ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Mar 1, 18 8:15 AM
Why would she sue the hospital? Was there medical malpractice involved? Isn't the failure to deliver her baby denying emergency care?

That sounds like an incomplete story. Doctors have a duty of care they have to meet with all patients; they're not free and clear to do a worse job because the person in front of them can't afford to pay.

As for my own health insurance cost, it was negotiated by my union and costs nothing out-of-pocket for me.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 1, 18 8:29 AM
Local public government union? Not accusing, just curious. And a little jealous. Costs nothing out of pocket for you, and costs everyone something, like Medicaid, the VA, and kind of like Medicare. You could care less what the hospital and the insurance wrangle over, right? Classic "tragedy of the commons".

As for case #2, the hospital gets sued because there is no limit to medical malpractice awards and therefore contingent legal fees and there are tons of lawyers in NY State. Hospitals ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Mar 1, 18 8:50 AM
I'm afraid that's against my policy of divulging too much personal information on the internet but having experience with both public and private sector unions, side-by-side union members routinely get much better deals than non-union members, yet unions are overwhelmingly seen as the enemy.

What's up with that? Shouldn't we all fight for better deals for ourselves instead of tearing others down to our level?

I also have a gripe with insurance companies specifically: everyone is ...more
Mar 1, 18 9:15 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
Also, one caveat: it costs nothing out-of-pocket but my employer pays the full amount of my policy. I reject the assertion that my insurance coverage is taking money out of anyone's pocket but my employer's.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 1, 18 9:15 AM
Your comment is false: When you get into an accident what's the first thing you say? "Let's not get the insurance company involved or my rates will go up!"

I have not been in a serious car accident in a long time -- I hope I don't any time soon either. Or anyone reading this.

If I did, the first question I would "everyone in the car ok? No one hurt?", then move the vehicle, if it was capable of being moved, off to the side of the road. Then find out if anyone in any other vehicles ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Mar 2, 18 8:35 AM
"Let's not get the insurance company involved" is a cliche for a reason.

Fyi, no fault insurance has limits of $40,000 last I checked.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 2, 18 8:41 AM
If your car is worth more than $40,000 good on you. The PIP is not included -- medical expenses are a separate limit. That's why all fraud in car accident insurance in New York State is focused on fraudulent medical care where bad actors abound.

Refusing to give insurance information in a car accident is not legal. If someone doesn't have insurance it's because they are not considered a good risk by an insurance company because they have had many accidents, they do not have a valid driver's ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Mar 2, 18 9:39 AM
Medical expenses are not separate. No-fault insurance is for all costs related to the claim including medical expenses, lost wages, and incidentals.

For "serious injury" beyond the no-fault limit your insurance company sues the other insurance company, and in egregious cases you may even receive punitive damages ("pain and suffering").
Mar 2, 18 9:48 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
Doctors, like drivers, and not perfect. People make mistakes, that's why insurance exists.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 2, 18 9:48 AM
Typical politicians wanting to get a piece of any successful business. Its the old saying...it never comes down to money...It ALWAYS comes down to money. Taxation in the name of safety, the new way the politicians raise money. 5 cent bags anyone?
By The Real World (368), southampton on Feb 12, 18 1:44 PM
This can replace expensive publicly subsidized buses and the inefficient and poorly run LIRR:
"On Friday, we discovered that Waymo, the self-driving Google spinoff, has been granted a permit to operate as a Transportation Network Company in the state of Arizona. This means that it can launch an official ride-hailing service and start charging customers for their journeys."
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Feb 17, 18 2:42 PM
Another solution in search of a problem...
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Feb 18, 18 10:12 AM
I believe in equality, : Livery and Taxi companies required to Pay the county for a TLC license, drug test, County operators sticker, Town operators sticker, Commercial Insurance which for Livery could be $4000 per year per vehicle... Vs when you are with UBER none of the above apply, you can drive your own private vehicle with no commercial plate requirement no special license no commercial insurance and mostly none of the added cost to the county mentioned above... Suffolk TLC says that a Sticker ...more
By Liveryguy (1), MASTIC BEACH on Feb 25, 18 9:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just curious about your insider perspective on what happens when Uber replaces all its drivers with driverless cars?

Should we ban that as well to protect our local livery drivers?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 25, 18 9:31 AM
not gonna happen here foreign
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 27, 18 2:11 PM
I don't understand your comment. What's not going to happen?

A ban on autonomous vehicles? Or autonomous vehicles at all?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 27, 18 2:14 PM
autonomous vehicles on our roads.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 27, 18 2:43 PM
Do you have any specific reason to believe that?

A long time ago I encouraged a friend to get internet access because it would help her kids' learning.

To my surprise she responded "that's just a trend" and your view on autonomous vehicles made me think of her.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 27, 18 3:05 PM
Its my understanding that more of our east end tax dollars, sales tax etc, goes up west and up state and that we do not receive a dollar for dollar benefit back here on the east end. I think a tax audit should performed before any more taxes are levied sp that we truelly understand the problem. The bus system should raise its fair and at least try to be sustainable.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Feb 28, 18 3:56 PM
1 member liked this comment