Reps Gottheimer, Lawler Reintroduce Anti-Congestion Pricing Bill

By Matis Glenn

Rep. Mike Lawler, speaking, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, left(office of Mike Lawler)

Drivers won’t have to “cough” up extra money to enter Manhattan under New York’s planned congestion pricing plan, under legislation reintroduced Thursday by New York and New Jersey congressmen.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer(NJ-5), a Democrat, introduced a bill in 2021 which would, if passed, prevent the federal government from granting certain funds to the MTA if congestion pricing is carried out. It would also grant New Jersey drivers a federal tax credit to reimburse them for fees collected by New York under the pricing scheme. Gottheimer, when reintroducing the bill, dubbed the “Anti Congestion Tax Act,” was joined by freshman Rep. Mike Lawler (NY-17), a Republican, who co-sponsored the bill.

Passed in the state legislature in 2019, the congestion pricing plan would require drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th Street to pay up to $23, on top of tolls paid by traveling through bridges and tunnels.

The plan requires federal approval and was stalled during the Trump administration. President Biden has expressed support for the move, which would make New York City the first city in the country to require congestion pricing.

Manhattan would join several major world cities if the law is implemented, including London and Stockholm.

Those opposed to the law say that it will disproportionately affect people who live in the suburbs or New Jersey. While people who live in the five boroughs often travel to Manhattan via public transportation, those who live elsewhere tend to rely on their cars to enter the city.

“New York City and the MTA are playing Russian roulette with their economy, and are willing to stick it to all of those hard-working commuters from Jersey, the outer boroughs, and the New York City suburbs,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “Just read MTA spelled backwards and it tells you exactly how the MTA looks at New Jersey, outer borough, and other suburban New York drivers right now: as their personal ATM. Enough is enough.”

Opponents also say that the bill is one-sided, granting revenue to New York City from Jersey and suburban New York drivers, with only the city profiting.

“For too long, Hudson Valley commuters have gotten the short end of the stick,” Lawler said in a statement. “With reduced service, no one-seat ride for Rockland County residents, and subways that have become increasingly dangerous, it’s no wonder that ridership is down as more folks commute into the city by car or by telecommuting.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul defended the policy, while panning the congressmen, calling their press conference announcing the bill a “sideshow.”

“It is moving on the path forward,” Hochul said in a press conference. “We’re not deterred by people holding press conferences…” Hochul went on to defend the pricing plan, saying that it will protect the environment, remove “paralyzing” congestion, and be a source of funding to “continue investing in what is the lifeblood of the New York City region, which is our MTA.”

Mayor Eric Adams, longtime backer of the pricing plan, reiterated his support.

“We need to get congestion pricing done so we can invest in mass transit and reduce traffic,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told Hamodia. “We are working closely with our state partners to get this right — ensuring congestion pricing is rolled out fairly and equitably and that the program is structured in a way that will improve our environment, economy, and quality of life.”

Pending an approval from the Federal Highway Administration, and assuming President Biden does not request a comprehensive environmental review, the pricing plan may go into effect by the end of 2023.

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