Federal and state lawmakers are pushing back hard against a congestion pricing plan in New York that acts as a de facto tax on Garden State residents.
“New Jerseyans are used to paying our fair share but New York’s congestion pricing scheme is a bridge too far,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9). “New York’s plan would saddle Jersey commuters with extra taxes. This is wrong and we won’t stand for it.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) added “This is just New York mooching off Jersey to solve their own problems. It’s a ridiculous joke.”
The issue raising the ire of North Jersey lawmakers is the federal government giving New York the green light to implement a proposed congestion tax plan that would cost New Jersey drivers an estimated $3,000-per-year daily fee for taking the George Washington Bridge to head below 60th Street.
Manhattan Congestion Tax
“I call it a Manhattan Congestion Tax as it is Manhattan overreaching because of their own problems, tring to make us pay for their own issues and have us fix their problems,” stated Gottheimer. “We are going to fight back against this absurdity.”
The congestion pricing plan is made worse in the eyes of North Jersey lawmakers by the decision to offer discounts to those using the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels as well as the Henry Hudson Bridge, which Gottheimer pointed out is farther north of Manhattan than the GWB. The congestion tax would be on top of the estimated $4,000 New Jersey commuters pay a year in bridge tolls, some of the most expensive in the country.
“Now suddenly they are saying that if you go over the GWB we are going to whack the driver twice and if you go over Holland or Lincoln or Henry Hudson you would get a credit back so you wouldn’t be hit twice,” said Gottheimer. “(The plan would) hit every hard-working, middle class worker with an additional $14 congestion tax on top of the already unaffordable $15 toll every time they go over the George Washington Bridge and into Manhattan.”
Besides Pascrell and Gottheimer, state lawmakers raised their objections to the congestion tax.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) called the plan discriminatory against Garden State drivers.
“New York’s plan for congestion pricing is abhorrent,” said Vainieri Huttle, whose 37th Legislative District includes towns surrounding the GWB. “New Jersey’s commuters should not foot the bill for the MTA’s mismanagement, nor should they be subjected to such outrageous toll hikes. New York must take action to right this wrong immediately.”
While taking a more conciliatory tone, Gov. Phil Murphy said any scheme that discriminates against New Jersey commuters will not be supported by his administration and the state deserves to get a fair amount out of the congestion plan that their drivers would pay into.
“God willing, that’s something we can work out peacefully and I’m very optimistic we can,“ said Murphy. “If we can’t, we have the means by which we will exercise our power and we will do so.”
The unrest comes as New York has broken with the tradition of sharing money generated from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey airports, crossings, and ports in order to fund mass transit projects in New York City.
“Despite the hundred years of constructive cooperation, of sharing the costs and revenues of our bridges, tunnels, ports, and airports, New York is now trying to change the deal and stick it to their partner—the people of New Jersey,” said Gottheimer.
“We have always done things in a cooperative way, I don’t understand they would turn around and think that this is ok.”
To fight the New York plan, Gottheimer and Pascrell formally requested U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to undertake a comprehensive review of the effects the congestion tax will have on New Jersey’s commuters and to require public hearings in Northern Jersey on the plan.
The two congressmen cite how the proposed congestion taxes will impact access to federal highways, result in double taxation to many commuters, and damage the regional economy at a precarious moment during COVID-19 recovery.
Previously, Gottheimer sponsored the bipartisan Anti-Congestion Tax Act introduced with GOP Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4) last Congress, to prohibit the Transportation Department from awarding new capital grants to MTA projects in New York until drivers from all three New Jersey crossings into Manhattan receive exemptions from any congestion tax. It would amend the tax code to offer drivers a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount paid in congestion taxes entering Manhattan.