I want to thank Assemblyman McLaughlin for his leadership in getting this meeting put in place and all of my colleagues who are present today to hear Capital Region concerns.
And let me thank all of you who have taken time to be here to voice your concerns about this proposed 45 percent Thruway truck toll increase.
Let me first of all register my concern about New York’s government saying one thing and then doing another.
For example, the Lottery was not only going to provide extended funding for education but for the reduction of property taxes. We know it really just ends up backfilling general fund revenue.
And we were told New York has a locked box for revenues like registration and license fees, which will go to maintain our infrastructure and roads and bridges. Well, like Social Security on the federal level, somebody keeps getting the key to that locked box and our roads and bridges are woefully in need of maintenance.
And, of course, the Thruway was going to be free for access by 1996. Well, not only is it not free but there have been four toll increases over the past seven years at a cost of millions of dollars for motorists.
The Thruway Authority, in large part, has ignored recommendations or only “partially implemented” changes from a 2008 state comptroller’s audit. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has stated, “For years the Authority has failed to make the improvements recommended by my office and independent consultants. The Thruway should do more before relying on yet another toll hike to make ends meet.”
Among the Comptroller’s recommendations to the Thruway Authority were to examine the SAGE Commission’s findings regarding potential savings from the consolidation of functions into other transportation agencies; improving the collection of E-Z Pass tolls; prioritizing its capital improvements; commission an independent analysis of the Canal System to examine ways to streamline operations; analyze past and present traffic estimates to determine the actual usage of the Thruway; and issue quarterly reports on the Thruway Authority’s finances and traffic levels.
John Laurent, Regional Director for the State Comptroller, is here today and he brought copies of Mr. DiNapoli’s audit of the Thruway Authority which you can find on the table outside this room.
Now, to add insult to injury, the Thruway Authority proposes a 45 percent truck toll increase. The suggestion is that that truckers don’t pay their fair share and the Thruway Authority needs the revenue! This is like trying to penalize Peter (the truckers and small businesses) but really penalizing Paul (taxpayers and consumers). Everyone knows that when the cost of goods and services goes up businesses either cut their workforce, reduce their economic footprint, or pass the cost on to the consumer. In many cases all three!
And what would anyone do if they were going to be charged 45 percent more to travel a roadway? They would find a new route. In this case my fear is the route for large trucks would be through residential neighborhoods. It would not only impact those roads and increase costs on their local municipalities to maintain, but it also would affect public safety and quality of life.
Let’s consider our small family farms in New York State that have suffered from one calamity after another. Last year was Tropical Storms Irene and Lee and this year was the early warm up of temperatures followed by a frost, hail storms, and then a hot, dry summer. And now they are being socked with a 45 percent increase in the cost to get their products to market. That’s unacceptable!
And when the Thruway Authority was asked about giving the citizens of the Capital Region a forum to voice their concerns, their response was that the 45 percent toll hike is a “modest increase” and that the Thruway Authority has lived up to the minimum requirements of the law. Again, unacceptable!!
What they have said to taxpayers and businesses in the Capital Region is, “Frankly, we don’t give a damn what you think. Go take a (toll) hike!”
And if this hike goes into effect – “It is more Capital Region dollars gone with the wind!”
We oppose this toll hike and we also are supporting the elimination of the Thruway Authority and putting it under the auspices of a more transparent DOT – as recommended by the Governor’s SAGE Commission last December.
We also support legislation, (A.2040), to take any toll increase out of the hands of any authority or agency and put control of it in the hands of representative elected officials who are accountable to taxpayers and voters, and after making their decisions it must go before voters.
Let me once again thank you and my colleagues for being here today. We look forward to your input and sending your concerns onto all our colleagues, the Governor and the Thruway Authority.