Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River) spoke out against the proposed 45 percent toll increase on trucks with three or more axles at a recent public hearing before the Thruway Authority Board in Syracuse. Blankenbush emphasized that the increase would have a disastrous effect on the fragile economic recovery in New York state.
“The Thruway Authority’s proposed 45 percent toll increase on the trucking industry is outlandish, and would prove to be a great hardship on small businesses, family farms and consumers, and will further delay job creation throughout the state,” said Blankenbush. “We’ve worked tremendously hard to turn around some of what has been slowing our economic recovery, and I am concerned that the toll hike will undo a lot of what we’ve accomplished over the last year.”
Blankenbush’s testimony outlined how the toll increase was clearly anti-business and anti-consumer. He also questioned what has been done on the Thruway Authority’s side to correct its troubling financial issues.
Blankenbush noted the trucking industry’s role in providing good jobs to New Yorkers. New York is currently the second-most expensive state in which to operate a commercial truck, costing roughly $20,000 annually. The toll increase would threaten to make New York the most expensive state in which to operate a truck, something which many small, independent trucking companies cannot afford.
Some people are predicting that the already-decreased Thruway traffic will decline even more if this ill-advised toll hike takes place. Trucking routes may begin to bypass the Thruway and divert traffic onto municipal roads, which can’t handle such heavy vehicles as frequently; something Blankenbush says will put undue strains on local governments and taxpayers.
Even more troubling for the state and its consumers is that New York might be completely cut out of many trucking routes. Major consumer and business advocacy groups believe that these increased costs of transporting goods in New York will be passed down to consumers, causing prices to rise on the goods and services used every day. Additionally, the Assemblyman raised concerns on how the hike would burden family farmers, and noted that nearly every good, agricultural or otherwise, is transported by trucks. Blankenbush says the increased costs of goods and food would strain already tight family budgets.
Worse yet is the fact that there have been many signs over the years pointing to the Thruway Authority’s unhealthy fiscal practices; yet, little was done to correct these problems. Comptroller DiNapoli has recently spoke strongly about the authority’s financial mismanagement. In 2011, revenue fell by one percent; yet, spending grew by seven percent. The Authority, heavy on overhead and payroll, kept relying on high-risk, short-term financing and ran on deficits, pushing it further into debt. Blankenbush highlighted the mismanagement of financial capital meant to repair and improve the Thruway system for 2005 projects, which showed that only about 40 percent of improvements were accomplished; yet, the Authority unwisely spent 85 percent of its funding.
Blankenbush said the Thruway Authority’s attempt to dig itself out of this hole on the taxpayers’ dime is unacceptable.