45 Percent Thruway Toll Hike Is A Road To Fewer Jobs, A Weaker Economy And Higher Prices For Consumers
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
June 8, 2012
On Wednesday, 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. I was the first Legislative Leader to speak out against the proposed toll hike and said it would lead to fewer jobs, a weaker economy and higher prices for New York consumers. PROPOSED TOLL HIKE WILL HURT TRUCKING INDUSTRY, COST MORE JOBS According to the website Truck Info, there are an estimated 8.9 million people employed in the trucking-related jobs nationwide, with nearly 3.5 million truck drivers, many of whom are independent owners and operators. Nationally, there are 1.2 million trucking companies with 97 percent operating 20 or fewer trucks, and 90 percent operating six or fewer trucks. Our economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight that is transported annually, accounting for $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods carried by trucks. 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 companies already are struggling due to our state’s already astronomical taxes, energy, workers’ comp 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, FURTHER SQUEEZES FAMILIES 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 just about every store you can think of. 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 companies 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. THRUWAY AUTHORITY’S TOLL HIKE IS ANOTHER UNFUNDED STATE MANDATE ON LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL TAXPAYERS 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, 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 5 percent increase 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? THRUWAY AUTHORITY CHAIRMAN: 45 PERCENT HIKE A “MODEST INCREASE” 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. THRUWAY AUTHORITY NEEDS MORE ACCOUNTABILITY AND OVERSIGHT There is some speculation that a portion of the toll hike will 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.” SENECA COUNTY TOWN HALL MEETINGS: SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2012 If you want to join me in speaking out against the Thruway Authority’s proposed toll hike – or address issues such as the 2012-13 State Budget, the need for private sector jobs and unfunded mandate relief – attend one of my upcoming Seneca County Town Hall meetings. My Seneca County Town Hall meetings will be held Saturday, June 23 at the following times and locations: 10:00-10:30 a.m. – Lodi Town Hall Meeting, Lodi Town Hall, 8440 Main Street, Lodi 11:00-11:30 a.m. – Varick Town Hall Meeting, Varick Town Hall, 4782 State Rte. 96, Romulus 12:00-12:30 p.m. – Tyre Town Hall Meeting, Magee Fire Dept., 1807 Rte. 318, Seneca Falls 1:00-1:30 p.m. – Waterloo Town Hall Meeting, Waterloo Town Hall, 66 Virginia St., Waterloo NEXT WEEK: How we can help families address the rising costs of a higher education! As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com.