The recent Thruway Authority proposal to increase tolls on larger commercial vehicles couldn't come at a worse time with a weak economy and high gas prices already hurting all vehicle users directly or indirectly through the cost of goods.
Robert Lillpopp, a spokesman for the Business Council of New York State in Albany, calls the proposal "a job-killing initiative" that would hurt businesses and consumers across the state. For a state government that says it wants to attract businesses, "this sends the wrong message," he says, adding that 90 percent of manufactured goods are transported by truck in the state.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli argues that "all other options to increase revenue and cut costs" ought to be explored before imposing a 45 percent toll hike. He points out that the Thruway Authority's costs have grown by 36 percent over the past 10 years because average annual cost increases have climbed annually by 5 percent between 2002 and 2011 while revenue has gone up by only 4 percent.
Kendra Adams, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association in Albany, says New York is the most expensive state in the Northeast for trucking and second only to Oregon as the most expensive in the country, which is why no major trucking company is headquartered in New York.
Besides Thruway tolls, truckers in the state, most of them owning only 10 to 15 trucks, also are hit by high diesel-fuel taxes, registration fees and off-Thruway highway-use taxes, she says. Trucks constitute only 10 percent of Thruway users but pay 40 percent of the tolls, Adams says.
Adams suggests the state address several issues before a toll increase, including separating the canal system from the Thruway Authority, which she says is a $50 million annual drain on the authority; and finding ways to cut the authority's costs.
The state is in the middle of a campaign - called New York Works - to encourage more companies to move to and do business with New York. A Thruway toll increase would send a clear anti-business message.