New Jersey Democrats are asking freshman New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to block or limit potential congestion pricing plans with the Garden State.
That comes as questions swirl around how Hochul will move forward with the proposal, which would levy a surtax on motorists coming into New York City from New Jersey.
Hochul was sworn in as New York’s first female governor, taking the reins from Andrew Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, on Aug. 24 when Hurricane Henri flooded the very subways of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that would be a primary beneficiary of the proposal.
New York officials proposed congestion pricing as a means to tax drivers coming from New Jersey into New York during rush hour traffic. Under the plan, city officials would levy a once-daily toll for vehicles entering the “Central Business District,” which stretches from the south end of Central Park all the way to Battery Park at the south end of Manhattan Island.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, in a letter to Hochul dated Aug. 24 and publicized in an Aug. 31 press release, urged the governor to block the proposal or offer an alternative that would alleviate the impact on motorists’ wallets.
“New York City’s proposed congestion tax would endanger the economic recovery of the New York metropolitan region, add[ing] further expense to the already sky-high cost of commuting into New York City,” Gottheimer wrote.
One proposal in Congress would bar the MTA from getting federal funds unless it exempts New Jersey drivers from the congestion pricing charge. It would also create federal tax credits that New Jersey drivers could claim for the money they end up paying to New York, according to Gottheimer.
Federal officials are allowing the plan to move forward with a number of key public review sessions necessary for approval. But, several members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation are asking the Biden administration to slow-walk the process.
Gov. Phil Murphy, meanwhile, said he wants New Jersey to have a greater say in how New York goes ahead with the plan.
Hochul’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
She did not bring up the topic of congestion pricing during an Aug. 30 press conference in Manhattan over a series of subway breakdowns the prior evening, but nonetheless maintained that the MTA was in dire need of improvements.
“We continue to invest money and thank god for President Joe Biden, who released tremendous amounts of money just this last January to the state of New York to make these improvements, to make these upgrades,” she said.
Eric Adams, a leading mayoral contender for New York City, has been open to the proposal.
Earlier in the spring, New Jersey lawmakers said they would go ahead with a counterattack to the congestion pricing proposal that would soften the blow Garden State drivers could feel from the proposed surtax. Under that plan, the Garden State would tax all non-New Jersey drivers and use the funds for a rebate that would help commuters recoup some of the money spent on New York’s new toll. New Jersey drivers would be exempt from that plan.
An Aug. 24 letter from 31 different transportation nonprofits, trade groups and companies – including the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Regional Plan Association, and ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft – called on Hochul to move ahead with the congestion pricing plan.
“[C]ongestion pricing is the foundational source of funds to fix and modernize our subway, bus and commuter rail network,” the letter reads.
It is estimated the plan would generate $15 billion for the city over four years, which local officials and those at the MTA said will go toward desperately needed upgrades to New York City’s sprawling subway system.
“The longer we wait for a fair, broad-based program, the longer it will take to fix the subways and also relieve the chronic road congestion that drags down our economy, health and safety,” the letter reads.