By Suhail Barot
Earlier this week, after yet another fare hike, the TTC Board passed on a budget to City Council that still contains more than a $60 million deficit. Today, City staff released a report discussing where revenue for meeting this budget gap, as well as for raising money for transit expansion. The results are not promising.
The report will voted on this December 1st at the executive committee meeting.
For the operating budget, City staff primarily propose an increase in Municipal Land Transfer Tax (matching the Provincial increase) and the reinstatement of the Vehicle Registration Tax – both of which we support and which are capable of filling the transit budget gap. We condemn Mayor Tory’s refusal to consider reinstating the vehicle registration tax, especially as all other significant taxes to support the operating budget require Provincial approval and cannot be implemented in time for this budget cycle.
We also strongly disagree with Staff’s recommendation not to pursue a commercial Parking levy as another of the few revenue tools the City can implement without needing approval from the Province. Parking levies have the co-benefits of reducing congestion and impermeable surfaces and helping to address climate change by reducing car usage in the city.
However, the City’s overall budget situation is dire enough that we cannot assume that any of this new revenue will make it to Transit. For this reason, TTCriders calls on the City to raise property taxes above the rate of inflation to generate desperately needed revenue for transit as well as other vital city services – especially noting that Toronto has the lowest property tax rate in the GTA.
On the capital side of the budget, Staff recommend a phased – in special capital levy of 5% of the current property tax – but this would support less than $2 Billion in capital spending. We support this but consider it highly inadequate. We also support the highly publicized proposal for road tolling on the Gardiner and DVP, but note that it also requires Provincial approval as well as has a long lead time to implementation. Thus, we remain a little skeptical of Mayor Tory’s intentions on this file at this point.
Other longer term revenue tools, requiring Provincial approval that we support include progressive income and sales taxes, sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco, hotel taxes and special sales taxes on commercial parking. We encourage the City to engage with Queens Park so as to implement them in the future.