Never underestimate politicians’ rapacious appetite for taxpayer (or “borrowed”) cash. It is insatiable so much so that many of them will flagrantly lie to get more. More cash means more money to spend to garner votes at election time and to pay-back political contributors. In a word, more taxpayer cash means more power for politicians.

Yet another example of this on a local level is occurring in New York City where the politicians are set to impose the nation’s first “congestion pricing” tolls next year on cars and trucks to enter the busy borough of Manhattan, from 60th street (midtown) to the southern tip of the island.

The new “congestion” tolls to enter Manhattan will be anywhere from $9 to $23 or more on the driver of every car and truck each time they enter the zone, depending on time of day and vehicle size. You will pay when you drive to work or return home, bring your child to or from school, go shopping, etc. There is an offset for the toll impact on low-income earners who reside within the zone in Manhattan in the form of a state income tax credit, but that’s all.

As with so many costly national policies, congestion tolls were sold in part under the ruse of global warming (and are still) and have long been supported by radical climate groups.

The stated justification for the pending tolls is threefold: mitigate traffic congestion; reduce vehicle emissions from fewer vehicles to “fight” climate change; and finance capital expenses for mass transit —buses, commuter trains and subways—in New York City and its surrounding suburbs, which will amount to $15 billion over five years.

In fact, the singular purpose for the congestion tolls is money. It’s always about the money.

Two of the purported reasons for the tollsreducing emissions and mitigating trafficwere tantamount to lies. Manhattan traffic will be insignificantly affected so as not to matter. Vehicle emissions will go unchanged since some cars will drive and park elsewhere, outside the congestion zone, and increase congestion in other neighborhoods in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, especially Staten Island and the Bronx.

My own practice is illustrative. I would occasionally drive into Manhattan and pay to park in a garage. Henceforth, I will still drive, but to a location outside the toll zone and take a subway, perhaps easing congestion in midtown but worsening it elsewhere, with no change in overall vehicle emissions.

Tolls that are imposed on vehicles on certain roadways, bridges and tunnels are simply user taxes. They constitute another means by which the government extracts money from the citizenry to fill its coffers for redistribution. With congestion tolling, drivers of cars and trucks will pay more on top of existing tolls on bridges and tunnels to the City (with some possible offsets against double-counting) to subsidize others who use mass transit.

These congestion toll-taxes were first authorized by the New York State Legislature and then-Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2019 (Cuomo since resigned in disgrace last year after a blizzard of scandals). But, three years later, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which governs the region’s mass transit systems, recently acknowledged that new congestion tolls will, in fact, not reduce overall congestion; rather, it will increase over time, regardless. Oops, now they tell us.

Another $15 billion in mass transit capital spending will necessitate at least $1 billion annually from the congestion pricing tolls, estimated at the time the scheme was first devised. Now that interest rates are rising, the annual cost will mean millions of dollars more, which will translate to higher, regressive toll-taxes on drivers who are mostly working and middle-class, not wealthy.

Businesses, especially cab and uber drivers and delivery companies going in and out of the zone multiple times daily will end up paying millions of dollars extra each year and will pass it onto customers in higher prices and reduced service.

As the tolls soon become a reality, there is a growing outcry. Public hearings reveal a litany of complaints on the exorbitant cost on top of the worst inflation in 40 years. Such objections have fallen on deaf ears in the Legislature and with Governor Kathy Hochul, who last year succeeded the disgraced Cuomo. Their voracious spending appetites matter more, so they are proceeding.

The congestion tolling scheme is another example of climate policies coming home to roost. This saga in New York is a microcosm of national policies whereby President Biden and Congress deliberately raise the cost of living on every American to force-feed (“transition”) so-called renewable energy. Such efforts are colossally unrealistic, ineffective and, like congestion tolls, are regressive in nature as they harm lower-income Americans the most.

But, to my fellow New Yorkers, you voted for this massive toll-tax, because you overwhelmingly elect and re-elect the very officeholders who imposed this on you, with the costly implications well known to them at the time. So, own it New Yorkersor change it, by changing them.

Author

  • Peter Murphy

    Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at CFACT. He has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Governor George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26 Website: https://www.petermurphylgs.com/