Home News Killing the MTA’s toll program breaks state law

Killing the MTA’s toll program breaks state law

Wednesday, Gov. Hochul declared her intention to kill congestion pricing in New York City — and, by extension, every other American city that is considering following New York’s lead. This reckless decision is a staggering error.

With this move, the governor has single-handedly created a financial and fiduciary crisis for the MTA Board. The board voted less than three months ago to support implementation on June 30, after a years-long process to create a plan that would distribute the cost of supporting our regionally-critical transportation network throughout the areas it serves.

The governor is now tearing all of that up on a political whim, and blowing a $15 billion hole in the MTA’s capital budget, putting at risk projects benefiting people across all 12 MTA counties.
Yet the MTA Board has certain legal and fiduciary responsibilities it cannot ignore. In the event they vote to follow the governor’s direction, they must find an alternative source of funds or open themselves and the MTA up to lawsuits over multiple existing contractual agreements.

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.

In addition, the governor must answer the question of where new revenue will come from for every year going forward. It has been reported that she intends to ask the Legislature to expand the Payroll Mobility Tax on New York City businesses — in other words, she wants to raise taxes on city residents to allow people from outside the city to use our roads for free and pollute the air we breathe. This is a perverse idea, and a non-starter in the Legislature.

On top of the financial crisis she is creating, this is simply a terrible policy decision. The MTA needs this funding to support critical capital improvements across the region, including for Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North riders. And there is no question that Manhattan’s streets are dangerously overcrowded with cars; congestion pricing will reduce the high levels of traffic that increase commute times and pose a threat to pedestrian safety.

Further, walking back existing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — exactly one year after our skies turned apocalyptic orange from wildfire smoke — is a complete dereliction of our responsibility and a slap in the face to the next generation.

It is also not clear that this decision is legal. It violates the law that created congestion pricing. The MTA Board, having followed a lengthy official process to reach this point, cannot implement a last-minute delay with only the vaguest justification. Such an action would certainly be considered “arbitrary and capricious” by a court. 

Similarly, the Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009 requires that the MTA Board act independently and make decisions purely based on their fiduciary responsibility to the MTA. For the board to vote to completely reverse themselves, and ignore years of work, as a result of receiving explicit public instructions from the governor, clearly violates the law.

In addition, such an action would violate section 7.2 of New York’s climate law, the CLCPA, which requires all agencies and authorities to consider the impact of their official actions on greenhouse gas emissions. Since the MTA’s own environmental impact report found that implementing congestion pricing would reduce emissions, the board cannot now take an official action to undo congestion pricing without causing an increase in future emissions, contrary to CLCPA requirements.

Finally, our state Constitution guarantees that “each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” If the board votes to put thousands more cars back on our streets, which would otherwise be absent, they would be violating the constitutional rights of every resident of Manhattan, and many beyond.
Congestion pricing will provide a significant benefit to New York City residents and commuters, the overwhelming majority of whom use mass transit and walk to get where they need to go, and all of whom breathe the city’s air. Surrendering carefully considered policy in the face of a vocal minority, trading in the interests of millions of New Yorkers, and plunging the MTA into a massive fiscal crisis for baldly political reasons is absolutely unacceptable. The governor should change course (again), and if she does not, the MTA Board must refuse to comply.

Krueger is chair of the New York State Senate Finance Committee, and represents parts of Manhattan in the Senate.


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