Assembly members Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga) and Steve McLaughlin (R,C-Melrose) today held a bi-partisan legislative public meeting in Albany after the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) refused to hold its own hearing in the Capital Region on a proposed 45 percent toll hike. In a recent letter to Tedisco and McLaughlin , NYSTA arrogantly claimed this would be a “modest” toll hike on businesses throughout the state and declined to hold a meeting in the Capital Region. In response, Tedisco and McLaughlin decided to hold their own public hearing and invited industry officials, business owners, taxpayers and other elected officials to provide testimony on how this tax would affect New York’s economy and their businesses and livelihoods.
“The message today was clear: New York does not need another business tax,” said McLaughlin. “We heard testimony today from a number of individuals who said this tax would not only cripple New York’s trucking industry, but a number of local business and industries as well. The potential of hundreds of businesses that may relocate outside of New York because of this anti-business decision should serve as a wake-up call to NYSTA. There are many families and businesses whose economic viability would be in serious jeopardy should these toll hikes be implemented. This certainly is not the message Albany wants to be sending to business owners and entrepreneurs as we continue to rebuild from the longest recession since the Great Depression.”
“New York taxpayers were promised that 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. Now, to add insult to injury, the Thruway Authority is proposing a 45 percent truck toll increase. Everyone knows that when the cost of goods and services go up businesses either cut their workforce, reduce their economic footprint, or pass the cost on to consumers. In many cases all three,” said Tedisco.
“When the Thruway Authority was asked about giving the citizens of the Capital Region a forum to voice their concerns like every other region of the state has been offered, their response was that the 45 percent toll hike is a ‘modest increase’ and the Thruway Authority has lived up to the minimum requirements of the law. That’s unacceptable! What the Thruway Authority is saying to taxpayers and businesses in the Capital Region is ‘Frankly, we don’t give a damn what you think. Go take a (toll) hike! It’s clear from what we’re hearing from taxpayers and small businesses that there should be no EZ-Pass for this toll hike,” said Tedisco.
Panelists at today’s public hearing included David Golub, Price Chopper Supermarkets; Andy Clemente, Bonded Concrete; Kendra Adams, New York State Motor Truck Association; Tom Minnick, The Business Council of New York State; Julie Suarez, NYS Farm Bureau; Quinn Morris, NFIB New York; Keith Wiggand, Capital Region business owner; Gail Hopper, Chamber of Schenectady County; Mark Eagan, Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce; Bob Both, Tetra Tech Construction; Rick Zimmerman, Northeast Ag & Feed Alliance; Eric Carlson, Empire State Forest Products Association; Jeff Keller, Northeastern Retail Lumber Association; Pete Bardunias, Chamber of Southern Saratoga County; Ted Danz, Family Danz; Joe Gomez, Gomez Electrical Contractors; and Bill Deegan, Warren W. Fane, Inc.
The Capital Region was the only area in the state served by the Thruway that, until today, was not given the opportunity to weigh in on the controversial toll increase, which has been universally panned by businesses and taxpayers that must travel the road regularly.
“Not only was the Thruway Authority's decision utter arrogance, but a slap in the face to those businesses struggling each day and who were not afforded a chance to voice their concerns. These are real people with their livelihoods at stake and who deserve the respect of a public hearing. I’m proud that Assemblyman Tedisco and I were able to shed some light on this dangerous tax and even more of a dangerous state agency.
“For years, NYSTA has been proposing and implementing toll hikes to pay for their out-of- control spending. We must rein in this rogue agency and the first step is for Governor Cuomo to initiate a full forensic audit of the Thruway Authority. Our hard-earned money cannot continue to fuel their mismanagement,” concluded McLaughlin.