Under public pressure, the New York State Thruway Authority postponed a meeting today that was expected to include a vote to increase tolls for truckers by as much as 45 percent.
Now, Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, warns of a bait-and-switch.
“I think once again this public authority got caught with its hand in the cookie jar,” Tedisco said.
He and other upstate Republican assemblymen had warned of Friday’s meeting, saying it was hastily called and no agenda was released for it. They said the timing was disgraceful, coming as public and media attention is riveted on Superstorm Sandy recovery and a post-election dispute over control of the state Senate.
“This is really close to secret government,” Tedisco said. “I think some of the members started to back off.”
Now, he said, he worries the Thruway Authority, whose leaders are appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will vote for a toll increase that is less than the proposed 45 percent, yet still hefty, while the board or Cuomo call it a reduction.
“What they are trying to do is skin this thing through,” Tedisco said.
He and business group Unshackle Upstate say any toll increase will raise prices for New Yorkers and business operators beyond the trucking industry. They want audits to show the need and any spending cuts that could avoid a toll increase.
“The postponement of the Thruway Authority board meeting doesn’t change the fact that they’re still considering an irresponsible toll hike,” said Brian Sampson of Unshackle Upstate. “Until we hear otherwise, there’s no good news to be had.
The authority board rescheduled its meeting from Friday afternoon to Tuesday. Thruway Authority spokesman Dan Weiller said the meeting wasn’t postponed because of Tedisco’s criticism, though he wouldn’t comment further on the reason or say whether a toll increase will be considered at Tuesday’s meeting.
In May, the authority proposed what it called a “modest” 45 percent toll increase for commercial trucks. It held several public hearings during the summer and initially planned to have the higher toll in place this fall. The agency said the increase would bring New York in line with higher tolls already charged by neighboring states.
The authority in an extensive report blames past administrations for fiscal problems during the recession that require more revenue to keep the agency fiscally sound. A credit ratings agency backs up the need for more revenue, which could include higher passenger car tolls.
Tolls were last raised in January 2010.
Currently, the toll for a three-axle truck traveling from Buffalo to New York City is about $88. Under the proposal, that could increase to $127. In June, a rating agency said “aggressive” toll increases for truckers and eventually all drivers might be needed to keep the authority fiscally sound, even though a multiyear phase-in of toll increases for car drivers ended in 2010.