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March 18, 2016 11:30 AM, EDT

N.Y. Legislature Not Supportive of Gov. Cuomo’s Proposed Thruway Toll Reductions

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New York’s House and Senate are balking at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to effectively cut toll rates on the New York Thruway in half for its most frequent users and hold them steady for four years for all other drivers.

Neither the budget bill in the state Senate nor its counterpart in the Assembly includes the governor's proposed $340 million tax credit that he had said would benefit more than 900,000 drivers, including nearly 1,000 truckers.

"That's been zeroed out by both houses," Cuomo told reporters in Albany on March 15. "It's exactly what I was afraid of. Now we'll see what the upstate members say about it, and I hope they're held accountable."

Cuomo’s analysis appears to be off-target since 18 Upstate Democratic Assembly members signed a letter to Speaker Carl Heastie asking him to "reject the executive's $340 million earmark for Thruway toll tax credits [except those for agricultural uses]."

Kendra Hems, executive director of the New York State Motor Truck Association, isn’t surprised by the Legislature’s reluctance to go along with Cuomo’s plan, under which businesses and commercial vehicle owners using E-ZPass and paying between $100 and $9,999 in annual Thruway tolls would receive a tax credit worth 50% of that money. More than 26,000 businesses would save an average of $686 a year, while 1,700 commercial accounts would get a tax credit worth an average of $1,872. Passenger car drivers using E-ZPass who paid $50 or more in annual tolls would receive a 50% tax credit.

“From the beginning, we had heard concerns about the tax credit plan,” Hems told Transport Topics. “Certainly, it’s disappointing for our industry. Even though it was short-term relief, it was still relief. And with New York being the second-most expensive state [behind Oregon] in the nation to operate a truck, any relief is good relief.

"I don’t know that the plan is entirely dead. Conversations continue [in Albany], but the compromise might be what the Assembly has proposed, which eliminates the tax credit for commuters and commercial fleets but maintains it for the agricultural haulers.”

When he announced the plan Jan. 6, Cuomo called the Thruway “a vital artery for commerce and transportation throughout upstate” while promising to “deliver relief” to those who regularly use the 496-mile highway.

New York’s budget deadline is April 1.