Cahill Urges Thruway to Put the Brakes on Toll Hike

Calls for passage of authority reform legislation; independent budget office
December 7, 2007

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) called on the New York State Thruway Authority to halt plans for toll hikes until State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli completes a comprehensive audit of authority operations. The Assembly will hold hearings later this month on the Thruway’s proposal.

“The Thruway Authority must slam the brakes on their latest toll hike immediately,” Assemblymember Cahill said. “Now is not the time to be adding to the financial burden on families already struggling with skyrocketing energy and gas costs. The proposal raises serious questions and certainly highlights the need for comprehensive authority reform legislation.”

Mr. Cahill is a co-sponsor of the Public Authority Reform Act (A.9296), passed by the Assembly in June. A key provision in that legislation would create an Independent Budget Office (IBO) to serve as a watchdog over the hundreds of authorities currently operating with minimal oversight in all corners of the state.

“New York State has hundreds of public authorities funded through a combination of fees and tax dollars,” Assemblymember Cahill said. “These entities currently operate with very little oversight resulting in numerous examples of malfeasance, mismanagement and misappropriations. The reform legislation would install the checks necessary to bring transparency, accountability and integrity to our beleaguered system of public authorities.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is currently considering a proposal to raise fares and tolls on commuters you utilize public transit, bridges and tunnels controlled by the authority. The Thruway Authority last approved a toll hike in 2005. Their latest proposal has been advanced even though they have yet to implement the final stage of the 2005 increase. Mr. Cahill pointed to these fee increases as key factors in his push for increased authority oversight.

“Public authorities are responsible for providing many important services that New Yorkers rely on every day. They must be held to the highest standards of accountability to ensure that the public is getting their money’s worth,” Assemblymember Cahill said. “The Assembly’s public authority reform package will accomplish those goals.”

Mr. Cahill noted the Assembly’s toll hike hearings will give legislators an opportunity to look into management at the Thruway Authority. Previously approved toll hikes, along with a recent report disclosing that the Thruway Authority spent over $8 million for employee overtime in 2006, will be closely examined.

“If the State Senate passed this legislation back in June, we might have already had the mechanisms in place to provide the oversight necessary to avoid the toll hike,” said Mr. Cahill. “Unfortunately the Senate did not pass the authority reform bill and we are now forced to rely on the investigations of the Assembly and the State Comptroller to protect the New Yorkers who rely on the Thruway.”