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7/12/2007
New York Legislature Slams Bloomberg Congestion Tax
New York state legislature slows down implementation of a congestion tax in New York City.

Richard Brodsky
A skeptical New York state legislature ignored a Monday deadline that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) had set to enact his plan imposing a congestion tax on New York City motorists. To keep the idea alive, Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) is now promising to allow legislators to vote themselves a pay raise if a compromise congestion tax can be worked out.

Assembly Corporations Committee Chairman Richard L. Brodsky (D-Westchester) expressed the feeling of a number of lawmakers when he released a detailed report Monday slamming the mayor's proposal. Bloomberg had hoped to snare $500 million in federal gas tax receipts under a US Transportation Department program that encourages local governments to find creative new ways to increase the tax burden on motorists.

Bloomberg's plan had been to bill automobile drivers $8 and delivery truck drivers $42 one time each day they entered or left the city. The plan would raise $620 million in its first year and over a billion annually as the tax amount inevitably doubled. Although Mayor Bloomberg insisted on several occasions that his idea was intended to be a "pilot project," Brodsky did not believe it.

"The legislation gives to the mayor the unilateral and complete power to continue the program indefinitely and at any fee level," Brodsky wrote. "This does not constitute a pilot program."

Brodsky also pointed out that the system would be "unworkable" for motorists, especially tourists, who did not purchase an E-ZPass transponder. Those who did not know exactly how much to pay and how to do so would face a $115 ticket, discouraging tourism. The E-ZPass system and 1000 video cameras would also track and record the movements of individual drivers, to the detriment of privacy.

"The systematic invasion of privacy that is now a feature of much of modern life is neither inevitable nor without cost," Brodsky wrote. "That the government has itself created this new reality is not a reason to expand it unless it is both necessary and limited to the functions it is intended to serve. Neither is the case here."

Brodsky's most devastating attack was noting that Bloomberg's plan only promises an improvement in traffic speeds of 0.6 MPH. Brodsky pointed out that the imperceptible improvement may have been designed from the beginning to justify a future price increase to as much as $20 a trip.

"The only way to reduce congestion enough to achieve the mayor's goals is to significantly raise the congestion fee," Brodsky wrote. "This exacerbates the class unfairness of congestion pricing as well as its political attractiveness."

The full text of Brodsky's report is available in a 520k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File An Inquiry into Congestion Pricing as Proposed in PlaNYC 2030 and S.6068 (New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, 7/9/2007)

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