New Jersey public leaders are employing a combination of carrots and sticks in a bid to halt New York’s controversial congestion pricing proposal.
On the one hand, figures like state Sen. Joe Lagana, D-38th District, and U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from Bergen County, are hoping the incoming Hochul administration will hold off on the plans after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo departs his seat following his sexual harassment scandal. On the other hand, a bill Gottheimer and other members of Congress plan to introduce would bar the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – a primary beneficiary of the congestion pricing plan – from getting federal funds unless it exempts New Jersey drivers.
And, Gottheimr said, the bill would create federal tax credits that New Jersey drivers could claim for the money they end up paying to New York.
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.
“When commuters go across the George Washington Bridge and drive into Midtown, they’ll get whacked,” Gottheimer said during a Lodi press conference on Aug. 11.
He estimated that commuting costs from just tolls and the new congestion pricing plan could balloon to $31 a day for drivers.
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.
The city estimated that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to telecommuting and social distancing practices, several hundred thousand cars entered that swathe of Manhattan each day.
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.
“I get it MTA needs help. We need help here in New Jersey too,” Gottheimer added. “But not by screwing New Jersey residents in the process.”
The New York Governor’s Office did not immediately return requests for comments. But 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.
“We simply cannot expect a robust recovery and return to in-person work to be successful while workers needed in New York City are being penalized simply for going to their jobs,” Lagana said during the May announcement. “New Jersey is not New York’s piggy bank.”