New Jersey lawmakers threaten to fight back against congestion pricing plan
A group of New Jersey lawmakers threaten to fight back if New York goes ahead with its plan to charge drivers a fee to enter Manhattan’s central business district.
Senator Joseph Lagana and Assemblyman Christopher Tully, both Democrats, from the state of New Jersey, said they were drafting legislation that would require non-residents to pay state sales tax on tolls when driving between New Jersey and New York at crossings such as the George Washington Bridge.
The tax revenues would be used to reimburse New Jersey drivers who have to pay congestion pricing fees to get to Manhattan, under New York’s new program.
The congestion pricing program, which was put in place by New York State in 2019, was due to be implemented earlier this year. But an environmental review by the Federal Highway Administration was delayed under the Trump administration.
The Biden administration resumed the review process at the end of March. The review is expected to be completed later this year, paving the way for the final design and construction of the toll infrastructure. The New York-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority said charges could begin in early 2023.
Mr Lagana said New York’s congestion pricing plan, if approved, would unfairly punish commuters in his state.
“New Jersey is not New York’s piggy bank,” Lagana said at a press conference Monday. “If they adopt this program, it would be irresponsible not to find a way to protect our residents.”
U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer (D., NJ) said he plans to write to the Transportation Department to urge the Biden administration to reject the New York plan. Mr Gottheimer also said he supports efforts by state lawmakers in New Jersey to fight back with a sales tax on out-of-state drivers.
“If New York attacks our wallets, if they attack our own families, we’ll give them a taste of their own medicine,” Gottheimer said at the press conference.
The New York congestion tax will apply to vehicles entering an area covering most of Manhattan between 60th Street and Battery Park. These charges should apply once per day to most vehicles entering the congestion area. They will be set by a panel of six members chosen by the MTA.
The committee will have the power to grant credits, discounts or exemptions to certain groups, including those who have paid tolls at level crossings. But it will also be bound by the program’s goal of reducing congestion while raising about $ 1 billion in annual revenue to pay for transit upgrades in New York City.
Mr Tully said New Jersey drivers shouldn’t expect to solve the financial woes of the New York subway system.
“We shouldn’t be used to fund the MTA,” Tully said.
Ken Lovett, an MTA spokesperson, defended the program.
“Now is not the time for NIMBYISM and legally dubious taxation,” Lovett said. “Charging congestion will benefit everyone who comes to New York, including those from New Jersey, by reducing traffic and improving air quality.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Appeared in the print edition of May 11, 2021 under the headline ‘NJ lawmakers threaten to strike back’.