I write to add my strong opposition to a growing public record of New Yorkers opposing the Thruway Authority’s proposed 45 percent toll hike on trucks. Without question, a 45 percent toll hike on trucks is fiscally irresponsible and will likely result in fewer private sector jobs, a less competitive economy and New York families paying more for basic necessities.
As the first Legislative Leader to speak out publicly against the Thruway toll hike, I have since heard from numerous constituents and private sector job creators – along with taxpayer and business advocacy organizations – who share my belief that if the proposed toll hike goes forward, New York’s economy will become less competitive. This is exactly the wrong message to send at a time when so many New Yorkers are unemployed, underemployed and our state is supposed to be “open for business.”
The proposed 45 percent toll hike is expected to cost trucking companies $20 million for 2012 and $86 million in 2013. Such dramatic cost spikes will hurt trucking businesses – many of whom already operate on the razor’s edge of profitability and pay the nation’s second-highest State and Federal user fees annually per truck. If the toll hike goes forward, it may force many trucking companies to leave for other states, resulting in even more lost jobs for New Yorkers.
Additionally, increasing Thruway tolls is a massive unfunded State mandate that will result in greater truck traffic on local roads, causing a negative impact on their safety with increased road maintenance costs borne directly by local taxpayers. Such a significant unfunded State mandate is yet another reason why the 45 percent toll hike is a bad idea that New York’s overburdened taxpayers cannot afford.
This latest proposed toll increase continues a troubling pattern of toll hikes by the Thruway Authority. In 2005, there was a 25 percent increase on passenger vehicles paying cash, a 12.5 percent increase on E-Z Pass passenger vehicles, a 35 percent increase on commercial vehicles paying cash, and a 28.3 percent increase for Commercial E-Z Pass users. For 2008, motorists saw a 10 percent toll increase; in 2009, motorists faced a five percent increase and, in 2010, drivers endured another five percent increase. This multi-year pattern of rising tolls leads to one conclusion: the Thruway Authority is an unaccountable and grossly mismanaged public authority in need of adult supervision.
Taxpayers were promised that the New York State Thruway would be “toll-free” once the construction bonds were paid off in 1996. Yet, some 16 years later, New York motorists are still paying for the Thruway. This is outrageous!
If the Thruway Authority does not rescind its proposed 45 percent toll hike, the State Legislature should exercise its oversight prerogative and cut the Thruway Authority’s 2013 operating budget by the same amount of revenue expected from the toll hike. Because the Thruway Authority has continually demonstrated itself unable to manage finances in a responsible manner, the State Legislature should explore disbanding the Thruway Authority and transferring its functions to the State Department of Transportation in order to protect motorists from continued toll hikes.
Brian M. Kolb
New York State Assembly