On May 30, the New York State Thruway Authority voted to hike tolls by 45 percent on certain trucks, the first step in its toll-hike approval process. If approved, the increase would lead to fewer jobs, a weaker economy, and higher prices for New York consumers.
The proposed 45 percent toll increase will make it tougher for trucking companies employing thousands of New Yorkers to stay in business. Many of these businesses are already struggling due to our state’s already astronomical taxes, energy, workers’ compensation, and regulatory costs. Some trucking companies may decide that it is too expensive to operate in New York and leave for other states that actually want their business, leading to more lost jobs for the Empire State.
Toll hike drives up consumer prices
An unintended consequence of a Thruway toll hike is that it will drive up the price of everything from bananas to bunk beds. The very trucks targeted by the Thruway Authority are the same trucks that bring our favorite products to Wegmans, Family Dollar, Walmart, Target, Sears and other stores. It defies economic logic to think that trucking companies will simply absorb the increased costs of doing business — they won’t. A large portion of the increased costs borne by trucking firms will be passed directly onto New York families who will pay more for necessities simply because the Thruway Authority decided to hike tolls by 45 percent.
Another unfunded state mandate
The proposed Thruway toll increase is another costly unfunded state mandate that will result in more truck traffic on local roads, which will have a negative impact on their overall quality and safety for motorists.
In addition, the increased road maintenance costs will require local governments and local taxpayers to shoulder even more of the financial burden for road repairs. Such a massive unfunded state mandate is yet another reason why the 45 percent toll hike is a costly idea.
A recent history of Thruway toll hikes
Unfortunately, the latest proposed toll increase is part of a continued pattern of toll hikes. In 2005, the Thruway Authority implemented a 25 percent increase on passenger vehicles paying cash, a 12.5 percent increase on E-Z Pass passenger vehicles, a 35 percent hike 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 5 percent rise and, in 2010, drivers endured another 5 percent increase. On top of all these recent increases, the Thruway Authority now wants to add an extra 45 percent hike in tolls for certain trucks. Does anybody at the Thruway Authority realize these toll hikes erode New York’s economic competitiveness?
More accountability and oversight needed at Thruway Authority
The Thruway Authority is a classic example of a public authority that needs adult supervision. Part of the problem stems from the fact that the governor actually appoints the Thruway Authority Board members and chairman, meaning taxpayers have zero say. Another issue is the Thruway Authority’s “Albany knows best mentality,” evidenced by a recent comment from Chairman Howard Milstein — an unelected official — that the proposed 45 percent toll hike was a “modest increase.” Such a ludicrous statement was a slap in the face to the men and women who work in the trucking industry and shows how out-of-touch the Thruway Authority has become.
There was some speculation that a portion of the toll hike could be used to finance repairs and renovations of New York City’s Tappan Zee Bridge. Instead of taxing commercial truckers to the hilt to pay for this and other road and bridge renovation projects, the Thruway Authority should tighten its own belt as far as possible. The proposed toll hike is more than just shortsighted public policy; it sends a message that, once again, New York State is not “Open for Business.”
Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C–Canandaigua) is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 129th Assembly District, which encompasses parts of Ontario, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Cortland Counties, and all of Seneca County. Contact him at (315) 781-2030 or firstname.lastname@example.org