Thruway Authority Audit Finds Toll Increase Unnecessary

A Legislative Column
February 1, 2008

Recently, state comptroller Tom DiNapoli released an audit of the New York State Thruway Authority. This audit confirms exactly what my colleagues and I in the Assembly Minority Conference have said for some time now, that tolls should NOT be raised. The audit also appears to agree with our idea of removing the State Canal Corporation from the Thruway Authority. If the Thruway Authority is struggling for funds, then we must separate the Canal from the Authority as a cost-saving measure.

Come to find out, the true reason for this toll hike is the Thruway Authority is not very good at managing their money. Why should we be punished with higher tolls because those at the Authority lack fiscal responsibility? We shouldn’t. Our state already suffers from some of the highest taxes and fees across the nation, the last thing we need is another fee increase.

I agree with most concerns coming from commuters and the local business community, residents cannot continue to absorb the added burden of increased tolls with the exorbitant cost of fuel. The ever-increasing cost of travel in New York is becoming extremely frustrating and we need to get a handle on this.

This toll hike affects the 41% of Thruway travelers that do not use the EZ Pass system, which currently offers a discount to those that enroll in the program. Over the next four years, the Thruway Authority will increase tolls by twenty percent overall and eliminate the discount for those travelers who use the EZ Pass system. Before the audit was issued, the Thruway Authority’s justification for this increase was lack of toll revenue collected over the past year as a result of skyrocketing gasoline prices and decreased travel.

If the Authority wants to blame increased fuel costs for the lower toll revenue, then I suggest we lower the gas taxes in New York as my fellow colleagues and I have proposed in the Assembly. With a lower gas tax more families and commuters will see relief at the gas pump and would be more willing to travel along the Thruway, thereby increasing the amount of tolls collected. Punishing the hardworking people of Upstate New York who have to use the Thruway for travel and commerce is not the way to increase revenue and will only discourage more people from using the Thruway.

I will continue to call for the Thruway Authority to eliminate these toll hikes. The NYS Legislature must pass a bill this year that will take away the Thruway Authority’s ability to increase tolls on our hard-working residents without input from the Legislature.