June 16, 2024

Albany politicians say Hochul feared congestion pricing blowback

State lawmakers were shocked by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bombshell news delivered that she’s indefinitely delaying congestion pricing.

The state legislature passed the measure in 2019. But lately, some legislators are having buyers remorse, while others are standing firm in their support of the plan.

“I’ve been fighting congestion pricing for over 20 years,” state Assemblyman David Weprin, a Queens Democrat, said. “This would be the wrong time to send a message to business, which would be an anti-Manhattan message in a sense that it’s gonna affect the economy in Manhattan.”

But Brooklyn Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, a Democrat, called the change “a disaster for mass transit riders.”

Back in 2019, congestion pricing was passed as part of New York’s over $175 billion state budget package.

And then signed into law, by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“It doesn’t look exactly as it looked in my mind in 2019, when we voted for this,” remarked Manhattan Assemblyman Al Taylor on Wednesday.

The Democrat said his constituents were complaining about computers possibly parking in his district and crowding coveted street parking spots.

Hochul’s plan dropped on the day before what should be the scheduled end of the 2024 legislative session, leaving some frustrated.

“The system is crumbling. We have ambitious expansion plans, but now we have no way to pay for them. The MTA was always relying on congestion pricing for the current capital plan,” Gallagher said during a press conference in the state Capitol.

“I don’t think Democrats are going to be crowing that they won and so I think that that’s going to be a great political weapon and I think that’s going to blow up in all of their faces,” Assemblyman Robert Carroll, a Brooklyn Democrat, said.

But important elections are approaching and 213 members of the legislature and every member of Congress is up for reelection — some face June primaries.

New York is targeted by national Democrats as a key stop on their path to control Congress.

“The last election cycle, issues that were really being dealt with at the state Capitol were hung around the neck of congressional candidates and Democrats paid a price,” Blair Horner, NYPIRG’s legislative director, told NY1. “The fact that the governor is choosing to kick the can at this late moment probably has a lot to do with politics.”

Lawmakers say Hochul does not want to be blamed for potential Democratic losses.

“This just demonstrates that the governor, along with some of our colleagues, have finally listened to the voters,” Assemblyman Michael Tannousis, a Republican from Staten Island, said.

He’s part of a lawsuit that was filed to halt the controversial program and previously introduced legislation to repeal the policy.

Although the final, official say will go to the MTA board, the legislature could play a role in deciding how the transit authority will get its desired funding.

One option is raising taxes on city businesses and another is authorizing spending from New York’s reserves.

“Hopefully we have, even in the near term, some replacement resources and in the long term we have to figure it out and if it’s not congestion pricing, what is it?” Assembly Democrat Deborah Glick, who represents an area of Manhattan, said.

Lawmakers are expected to leave the state Capitol by the end of the week without taking up any measures tied to congestion pricing.

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