Butler Calls Thruway Authority’s 45 Percent Toll Hike A Detriment To Upstate New York’s Economic Recovery

Assemblyman holds legislative forum on toll increase when Thruway Authority refused
September 5, 2012

Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,C,I-Newport), along with several other Capital Region assemblymen, held a forum today on the Thruway Authority’s proposed 45 percent toll increase on commercial vehicles with three or more axles. The increase would impact the trucking industry, which is the main transport system for the majority of goods and materials in the state. According to the assemblyman, the impact this toll hike would have on the economy would be disastrous, hurting small businesses, manufacturers, farmers and families.

“A toll hike of this magnitude would send a negative ripple effect throughout New York’s economy, leading to job losses and businesses closing for good; we simply can’t afford to make others pay for the Thruway Authority’s poor fiscal management,” said Butler. “I listened to testimony from representatives of nearly every industry in the state, and they all agree that the toll increase would be bad for everyone, especially middle-class families. I know the Thruway Authority may not want to hear it, as was so apparent from its refusal to hold a Capital Region hearing, but we’re going to issue a final report to make public the comments we heard today.”

Butler is troubled by the blatant efforts of the Thruway Authority to balance its books with this toll increase, which is an obvious tax. The Thruway Authority was warned several times about its fiscal management practices, twice during independent audits and once through an audit by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office. Comptroller DiNapoli has publicly spoken out against the Authority’s increase.

Toll increases in recent years have led to a decline in traffic. In 2011, revenue fell by one percent, and the Thruway’s spending continued to grow at a rate of seven percent. Trucks represent 10 percent of traffic on the Thruway, yet they pay for 40 percent of the tolls, according to the NYS Motor Truck Association. Increased costs on transportation of goods will only add to the cost of products, which Butler fears will put undue strain on already tight family budgets.

Nearly every industry was represented at the forum, from small and large businesses, to retail, manufacturing, farming, lumber, grocery and trucking – especially owner-operated companies. The lawmakers also heard from municipal officers, who said they are concerned that secondary roads would be the alternate route for trucks, which was confirmed by a trucker who told the assemblymen that he does take other routes just to avoid Thruway tolls. Assemblyman Butler said the comments will be sent to the Thruway Authority, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the press.

Assemblyman Butler and his colleagues suggested that the ability to increase tolls should be taken out of the Thruway Authority Board’s control. The Board is comprised of politically appointed bureaucrats who have no accountability to the public or the legislature. Butler pointed out during the forum that authorities don’t have the same requirements for public scrutiny and oversight as state legislators, county legislators, town and village officials, and school boards in formulating their fiscal policies.

Butler welcomes ideas from the public. Please feel free to call either his Johnstown office at (518) 762-6486 or his Herkimer office at (315) 866-1632. Comments also also be e-mailed to butlerm@assembly.state.ny.us.