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Hochul’s latest bid to close MTA’s congestion pricing funding gap blasted as ““cockamamie IOU scam”


State lawmakers are scrambling to plug the $1 billion hole created by Gov. Hochul pulling the plug on congestion pricing, but at least six state senators, all New York City Democrats, have signaled they oppose the latest proposal

As the legislative session in Albany comes to a close, lawmakers have extended their session and are now considering behind closed doors a proposal that would see the state commit to providing $1 billion to the MTA in what appears to be little more than what some are calling an IOU.

Advocates have slammed it as a “cockamamie IOU scam.”

“No. Are you kidding me?” State Sen. Jabari Brisport wrote on X about Hochul’s measure, little about which  has been made public. “Admit you made a mistake and implement congestion pricing as planned this is ridiculous.”

The state Legislature extended its annual session into Friday to deal with the chaotic fallout of Hochul’s reversal. On Thursday, legislators nixed a payroll tax hike for New York City businesses that was intended to recover the money.

By that night, they began weighing the new proposal, which has yet to be formally introduced.

Congestion cameras are pictured on Second Ave. and E. 60th in Manhattan. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)
Congestion cameras are pictured on Second Ave. and E. 60th in Manhattan. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

“The governor has stated that she has a billion dollars available to replace congestion pricing as a funding source for this year, but as the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I am not aware of any such funds, and she has not given the Legislature any indication of their location,” State Sen. Liz Kruger wrote in an op-ed for the Daily News published Friday morning.

State Sens. Julia Salazar, Kristen Gonzalez, Jessica Ramos and Andrew Gournardes have also voiced their displeasure with the proposal.

“I cannot in good conscience ratify a decision that will eliminate a significant, dedicated revenue source for the MTA’s capital plan while leaving the MTA’s needs subject to the frenzy of the annual Albany budget trough,” Gournardes said in a statement.

Hochul, who had long been supportive of the tolling plan, made the 11th-hour flip-flop on Wednesday, announcing the reversal in a pre-recorded video message. She has not taken any questions from reporters  since.

June 6, 2024: Congest plan clogged

Front page for June 6, 2024: Gov upends tolling project days before launch after 17 years of planning and a $500M contract. Crucial mass transit projects put at risk. Gov. Hochul on Wednesday made a surprise announcement that she was suspending the plan for congestion pricing, which has been in the works since 2007 and was set to start June 30.

New York Daily News

Front page for June 6, 2024

The decision has been met with an avalanche of criticism from lawmakers, advocates and New Yorkers. It’s also left a gaping $15 billion hole, threatening funding for several major public transit projects. Congestion pricing was planned to come into effect on June 30, and it was expected to rake in $1 billion a year in toll revenue. The MTA planned to then borrow against that to fund $15 billion in capital projects. 

“Canceling congestion pricing means finding $15 billion NOW for the MTA or canceling billions of dollars in new subway cars and buses, creating massive delays to modernizing signals and creating accessible stations,” Rachael Fauss with Reinvent Albany said in a statement. “One billion from the General Fund and a legally unenforceable, easy-to-renege-on IOU does nothing.”

“I think it’s very simply something that just says there will be a billion dollars for the MTA in the following year’s budget, but without any specifics as to what that means,” Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris told NY1.

Protesters demonstrate outside New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's Manhattan office, Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in New York. Hochul is indefinitely delaying implementation of a plan to charge motorists big tolls to enter the core of Manhattan, just weeks before the nation's first "congestion pricing" system was set to launch. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
Protesters demonstrate outside New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Manhattan office, Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in New York. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

The stakes for locking down the money are high, as a slew of projects to improve and expand the MTA’s coverage hangs in the balance — including the Second Avenue Subway, various repairs to decrepit infrastructure, elevator installation and electric buses. 

“I will vote NO on the Governor’s plan to redirect money that could fund universal after school, child care, affordable housing and mental healthcare,” State Sen. Zellnor Myrie said in a statement. “Instead this money will be used to provide political cover for a disastrous decision to abandon a decades-long, thoroughly debated policy that is good for our environment, our economy, and our public transit system.”

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