The Honorable Thomas J. Madison, Jr.Executive DirectorNew York State Thruway Authority200 Southern Blvd.PO Box 189Albany, NY 12201-0189Dear Mr. Madison:I write today concerning the 45% toll increase for trucks and commercial vehicles that theThruway Authority is proposing. Such and increase would have a devastating affect onbusinesses throughout New York, and would have a severely negative impact on our economy. Iurge the Thruway to abandon this misguided plan, and instead focus on improving operations atthe Thruway Authority which could save millions each year.Comptroller DiNapoli recently released a report that found many troubling things happeningwith finances of the Thruway Authority. The report shows that during the last ten years,operating costs at the Thruway Authority have increased by over 36%. On top of that, theComptroller found that costs have been ballooning for the State’s canal system, revenues havenot kept up with expenses, and debt payments have doubled in the last ten years. All of this newspaints a very grim picture of what is going on at the Thruway Authority. Rather than pursue a45% toll hike that would be disastrous for our economy, the Thruway Authority should put thetime and effort into cutting costs and improving efficiency. In addition, the Thruway Authorityshould look at good ideas being put forth, in particular an idea from Governor Cuomo’sSpending and Government Efficiency Commission. The commission, appointed by the Governorlast year, found that a consolidation of the Thruway Authority and the State Department ofTransportation could save over $50 million per year. These are the types of ideas the ThruwayAuthority should be focused like a laser on. Raising tolls by 45% on trucks and commercialvehicles is a gimmicky short-term fix, not a well thought out long-term solution.Again, I urge the Thruway Authority to come up with a better plan to improve its fiscal health.This proposed toll hike is just the kind of action that makes people distrustful of government, andmakes businesses wary of growing in our state. Every effort needs to be made to improveefficiency and cut costs, before even the idea of a toll increase is thought of. I look forward tohearing from you on this important matter.Sincerely,Sean M. RyanMember of Assembly
Dear Brian:Thank you for contacting me regarding the New York State Thruway Authority’s proposed 45percent toll increase. I appreciate your initiative in writing me with your concerns.It is without hesitation that I am in full opposition to the recent proposal made by the NYSThruway Authority to increase commercial tolls on trucks by 45 percent. While this could becharacterized as a tax on trucks, this toll increase is in reality yet another tax on consumers indisguise, as the trucking industry will be forced to pass these increased costs from the productswhich they transport, on to consumers. Additionally, I value your suggestion that the ThruwayAuthority should submit to an in-depth, independent financial analysis before implementing atoll increase.In my almost four years as a State Senator, I have been an advocate for lowering taxes and feesin New York, and the last two State Budgets, which I voted in favor of, made a commitment notto raise taxes on families, small businesses, manufactures and senior citizens throughout ourcommunity. I appreciate your comments and will certainly keep your thoughts in mind for thefuture as I continue to monitor the progress of this proposal, and make my strong opposition tothis proposal known to the NYS Thruway Authority. Also, I am aware of the public hearingbeing held tomorrow, August 16, 2012 in Buffalo, and I appreciate you taking the time to informme of the dates and locations of these three hearings.Again, Brian, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to call or write me should youhave any further questions or comments regarding this or any other State matter.Sincerely,MICHAEL H. RANZENHOFERState Senator
The following is my public comment submitted to the Thruway Authority on Friday expressing my strong opposition to its proposed 45 percent toll hike on trucks: PUBLIC COMMENT FROM NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MINORITY LEADER BRIAN M. KOLB AGAINST THE PROPOSED 45 PERCENT THRUWAY TOLL HIKE ON TRUCKS:I write to add my strong opposition to a growing public record of New Yorkers opposing the ThruwayAuthority’s proposed 45 percent toll hike on trucks. Without question, a 45 percent toll hike on trucks isfiscally irresponsible and will likely result in fewer private sector jobs, a less competitive economy andNew York families paying more for basic necessities.As the first Legislative Leader to speak out publicly against the Thruway toll hike, I have since heard fromnumerous constituents and private sector job creators – along with taxpayer and business advocacyorganizations – who share my belief that if the proposed toll hike goes forward, New York’s economywill become less competitive. This is exactly the wrong message to send at a time when so many NewYorkers are unemployed, underemployed and our state is supposed to be “open for business.”The proposed 45 percent toll hike is expected to cost trucking companies $20 million for 2012 and $86million in 2013. Such dramatic cost spikes will hurt trucking businesses – many of whom alreadyoperate on the razor’s edge of profitability and pay the nation’s second-highest State and Federal userfees annually per truck. If the toll hike goes forward, it may force many trucking companies to leave forother states, resulting in even more lost jobs for New Yorkers.Additionally, increasing Thruway tolls is a massive unfunded State mandate that will result in greatertruck traffic on local roads, causing a negative impact on their safety with increased road maintenancecosts borne directly by local taxpayers. Such a significant unfunded State mandate is yet another reasonwhy the 45 percent toll hike is a bad idea that New York’s overburdened taxpayers cannot afford.
This latest proposed toll increase continues a troubling pattern of toll hikes by the Thruway Authority.In 2005, there was a 25 percent increase on passenger vehicles paying cash, a 12.5 percent increase onE-Z Pass passenger vehicles, a 35 percent increase on commercial vehicles paying cash, and a 28.3percent increase for Commercial E-Z Pass users. For 2008, motorists saw a 10 percent toll increase; in2009, motorists faced a five percent increase and, in 2010, drivers endured another five percentincrease. This multi-year pattern of rising tolls leads to one conclusion: the Thruway Authority is anunaccountable and grossly mismanaged public authority in need of adult supervision.Taxpayers were promised that the New York State Thruway would be “toll-free” once the constructionbonds were paid off in 1996. Yet, some 16 years later, New York motorists are still paying for theThruway. This is outrageous!If the Thruway Authority does not rescind its proposed 45 percent toll hike, the State Legislature shouldexercise its oversight prerogative and cut the Thruway Authority’s 2013 operating budget by the sameamount of revenue expected from the toll hike. Because the Thruway Authority has continuallydemonstrated itself unable to manage finances in a responsible manner, the State Legislature shouldexplore disbanding the Thruway Authority and transferring its functions to the State Department ofTransportation in order to protect motorists from continued toll hikes.BRIAN M. KOLBMINORITY LEADER, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYAUGUST 24, 2012
August 24, 2012Howard Millstein, ChairmanNYS Thruway Authority200 Southern Blvd.Albany, NY 12209Dear Chairman Millstein: I want to express my strong opposition to the New York State Thruway Authority’sproposed 45 percent toll increase for commercial vehicles. A toll hike of this magnitude isunconscionable at a time when New York is struggling to emerge from a recession and claimsto be “open for business.” I think I can state with certainty that the cost hike will be passed along to consumers inthe form of higher prices on all goods, including food which is a necessity. A toll increase will killjobs, hurt our economy even further and send a clear message New York is neither open fornew business development nor helping our existing businesses. As many as 20 businessgroups, including the New York State Motor Truck Association, National Federation ofIndependent Business, Unshackle Upstate, Business Council of New York, ManufacturersAssociation of Central New York (MACNY) and New York Farm Bureau have joined in a chorusof protests against the toll increase. If this proposal is approved, there’s no doubt it will hurt ourstate’s agricultural community, manufacturers and small businesses, while devastating ourstate’s trucking industry and killing jobs.
New York is already one of the most expensive states in the country in which to operatea truck. A toll increase would only exacerbate the negative connotation. The trucking industryprovides a vast number of jobs – 277,710 in New York in 2010, which is one out of every 25jobs in the state. Many trucking companies are small businesses already burdened with heftypermit and user fees, in addition to escalating gas prices. In 2009, the New York truckingindustry paid approximately $1.4 billion in federal and state roadway taxes and fees. A 45percent toll hike would break the backs of smallbusinesses. Many trucking companies will likely close up shop in New York and move to otherstates. In the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region where my Assembly district is located, it isvery easy for small businesses to move a few miles south intoPennsylvania. Small trucking firms in my district have expressed strong opposition to the tollhike and made it clear to me this could be the last straw for them and they will move south. Thisis not the message we need to be sending to businesses at this very critical time. If the Thruway Authority believes the huge toll increase being proposed will simply beabsorbed by the trucking industry, you are mistaken. Consumers will be hit with the increasedcost with higher prices on everything from food to durable goods. The negative impact thisincrease will have on businesses, farmers and consumers is unacceptable and sends the wrongmessage in an already struggling economy. In addition, I predict a Thruway toll increase will force even more trucks to seekalternative, less costly, non-toll routes, resulting in higher traffic on county and local roads.Many of these roads and communities are not equipped to handle the increased truck traffic andthe damage to local roads this proposal will create. At a time when local governments arealready facing challenging budgets, this will indeed lead to greater damage to local roadsresulting in increased costs to local property taxpayers. We should be encouraging big trucks totravel on the Thruway and Interstate highways. Unfortunately, this proposal will do just theopposite. In addition to the higher costs of road repairs, I also fear for the safety of localmotorists on secondary highways. Furthermore, the increased truck traffic will surely disruptmany quiet, scenic communities nestled along these secondary roads. As a legislator, I am often asked by constituents and local business owners why we stillpay tolls on the Thruway. The bonds were supposed to be paid off around 1996, but 16 yearslater New Yorkers are not only still paying Thruway tolls, they are asked to pay more -- time andtime again. In fact, the Thruway Authority has increased tolls four times in the past seven years.
Just as our small businesses, manufacturers, farmers, consumers and taxpayers havebeen making difficult decisions to cut their spending and budgets, I think it’s finally time for theThruway Authority to seriously looks at its own costly operations and make necessary internalcuts and structural changes to its budget. To continue to ask individuals and businesses to bethe ATM for the Thruway Authority’s out-of-controlpage 3 – Thruway toll hike comments/Palmesanooperations is unconscionable, in my opinion, especially at this crossroads in our state’seconomy. This proposal is bad for business, bad for manufacturers, bad for farmers, bad fortruckers, bad for consumers, bad for taxpayers and definitely bad for New York. Therefore, Istrongly urge this proposal to be defeated. Sincerely, Philip A. Palmesano Member of Assembly