From the Right: Gov. Hochul Surrenders

From the Right: Gov. Hochul Surrenders
George Marlin

Well, well, well—Gov. Kathy Hochul has thrown in the towel on congestion pricing.

Hochul, who has proclaimed she is the Green Movement’s champion, who wants to take away our gas-run stoves, heating systems, and automobiles, has succumbed to pressure from Democratic pols (fearing voter backlash) and municipal and private sector unions.

I am not at all surprised by her announcement to suspend the congestion toll that was slated to commence on June 30.

Face it, Hochul has been a political chameleon throughout her public career. There was a time when she not only sought and accepted the nomination of the Conservative Party in one of her Western New York races but embraced the National Rifle Association as a candidate for Congress.

Let’s review the events surrounding the MTA’s congestion pricing program that caused Hochul to flip.

First there was the sticker shock. Passenger vehicles driving south of 60th Street in Manhattan at peak hours would pay $15; unit trucks $24; multi-unit trucks $36; buses $24; licensed sightseeing buses $36; and motorcycles $7.

Those huge charges upset the business, trucking, union, and political communities.

Local servicing companies from the outer boroughs announced they would pass down the toll costs to their Manhattan business customers. Business owners, in turn, intended to pass the added expense on to their retail customers. So, working-class folks would be stuck picking up the tab for the MTA’s latest financial scheme.

Next, there was a barrage of lawsuits filed in federal and state courts aimed at derailing the program.

After Albany rejected in April a plan to exempt government workers, nurses and first responders from having to pay the toll, a coalition of labor unions representing 400,000 municipal workers joined a suit filed earlier by the United Federation of Teachers.

“The congestion toll is just another crazy thing in the city,” said Harry Nespoli, boss of the City Municipal Labor Committee. “No one likes going into our pocket when we’re mandated to come in. These are the people who make the city run.”

There was, however, one ludicrous suit, filed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, claiming the toll discriminated against New Jersey residents.

He appears to have forgotten that New Yorkers have been supporting for decades the Port Authority’s top money-losing transportation projects that cater to Jersey residents: the PATH subway and the 42nd Street bus terminal.

To cover those deficits, which total hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the PA expends tolls paid by New Yorkers and profits from LaGuardia and JFK airports.

To me, that’s very expensive interstate discrimination.

When announcing the halt, Hochul said she “cannot add another burden to working-class New Yorkers or create another obstacle to our continued economic recovery.” But she was disingenuous. The very next day, the New York Post reported “Gov. Hochul is pushing a New York City tax hike to replace the $15 congestion tolls she indefinitely postponed.”

As for the furious enviros who are weeping and moaning that they were betrayed, they will get over it. That constituency has nowhere to go. They are not going to suddenly embrace the Republican and Conservative parties to spite the Democrats.

What the green crowd has failed to grasp is that congestion pricing was the MTA’s “Hail Mary” pass to raise money—not to help the environment.

The MTA hoped to raise at least $1 billion a year from congestion tolls to finance $15 billion in long-term borrowing for capital projects. Ergo, the last thing the MTA would want is a decline in Midtown Manhattan traffic.

If Hochul really wants to salvage the MTA’s finances, she should consider shaking up the agency.

The management has been incompetent for years. It has been responsible for a bloated $7.8 billion payroll, egregious overtime that cost $1.37 billion last year, fare evasions to the tune of $750 million annually, and tens of billions of dollars in cost overruns to build the Long Island Rail Road extension to Grand Central Station, the Second Avenue subway, and the No. 7 train station to 10th Avenue.

Will Gov. Hochul have the grit to take on the MTA bureaucrats, the mass transportation public employee unions and the construction unions? I doubt it.

Instead of sticking it to the Power Brokers, I expect Hochul will stick the costs of the MTA’s fiscal follies to the most vulnerable—the commuters.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here