RELEASE: Gottheimer, Pascrell Join Forces to Fight New York’s Congestion Taxes Targeting New Jersey Commuters

Request for USDOT, Buttigieg to require comprehensive review of the congestion tax’s burden on our commuters and public hearings in Northern New Jersey

Above: Gottheimer and Pascrell today in Fort Lee to fight back against New York’s proposed congestion tax targeting Jersey drivers.

FORT LEE, NJ — Today, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9) announced new federal steps to fight back against the proposed New York congestion taxes unfairly targeting hardworking New Jersey families for driving into midtown Manhattan. The federal government recently gave New York the green light to begin implementing their congestion tax scheme, which would whack New Jersey drivers with an estimated $3,000-per-year daily fee for taking the George Washington Bridge to head below 60th Street. 

In a formal request made today, Gottheimer and Pascrell are urging U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to commit to a comprehensive review of the effects that this new congestion tax will have on New Jersey’s commuters, and to require a robust public participation process, including public hearings in Northern New Jersey. The Members cite how the proposed congestion taxes will impact access to federal highways, result in double taxation to many commuters, and damage the regional economy at a precarious moment during COVID-19 recovery.

Currently, no public hearings have been announced for commuters to weigh-in on how the congestion tax will harm their families.   

“Despite the hundred years of constructive cooperation, of sharing the costs and revenues of our bridges, tunnels, ports, and airports, New York is now trying to change the deal and stick it to their partner – the people of New Jersey – with a new Manhattan Moocher Congestion Tax. Yes, because of their own financial woes, New York City wants to blow up our historical cooperation, and hit every hard-working, middle class worker with an additional $14 congestion tax on top of the already unaffordable $15 toll every time they go over the George Washington Bridge and into Manhattan.,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “This is just New York mooching off Jersey to solve their own problems. It’s a ridiculous joke.”

“New Jerseyans are used to paying our fair share but New York’s congestion pricing scheme is a bridge too far,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9). “New York’s plan would saddle Jersey commuters with extra taxes. This is wrong and we won’t stand for it. My friend Congressman Gottheimer and I are calling on the Biden Administration to right this wrong and ensure fairness for New Jersey drivers. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Gottheimer also highlighted his bipartisan legislation — the Anti-Congestion Tax Act — introduced with Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) last Congress, to prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from awarding new capital grants to MTA projects in New York until drivers from all three New Jersey crossings into Manhattan receive exemptions from any congestion tax. It would also amend the tax code to offer drivers a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount paid in congestion taxes entering Manhattan. 

Read Gottheimer and Pascrell’s letter to Transportation Secretary Buttigieg here.

Watch today’s announcement here.

Congressman Gottheimer's remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

We’re feet from the George Washington Bridge, where, on a normal pre-pandemic day, 289,000 people drive in and out of Manhattan from Bergen County and from all across our state.

Many of them are our constituents, a diverse and talented workforce, who work in New York, and, soon enough, if they haven’t already, most will start driving in again to support their families and help boost a 100-million-dollar-a-day regional economy, including 8% percent of our nation’s GDP.  Others, as we continue to reopen, will head in at night or over the weekends to grab dinner, go shopping, or spend a day with family and friends.  

It’s how it’s always worked, since 1921, when the Port Authority was created to help manage passage over the mighty Hudson River. New Jersey and New York working cooperatively together, for the good of the region and for the good of the nation.

But, despite the hundred years of constructive cooperation, of sharing the costs and revenues of our bridges, tunnels, ports, and airports, New York is now trying to change the deal and stick it to their partner – the people of New Jersey – with a new Manhattan Moocher Congestion Tax.  Yes, because of their own financial woes, New York City wants to blow up our historical cooperation, and hit every hard-working, middle class worker with an additional $14 congestion tax on top of the already unaffordable $15 toll every time they go over this bridge and into Manhattan.  

That’s the equivalent, on average, of a new tax of up to $3,000 dollars on every Jersey commuter – in addition to the nearly $4,000 they already pay every year to cross the bridge. How will hard-working people afford that?  It’s some sort of sick joke to do this to families in the middle of a pandemic. And we all know that here in northern New Jersey, there are very limited public transportation options. So, many folks who are just trying to put food on the table and see their kids at night will have no other choice than to pay the piper. 

We are here today to fight back against New York’s request to the federal government to approve their usurious, outrageous, and pathetically offensive congestion pricing scheme in Manhattan.  I know times are tough for the City, but this Manhattan Moocher Congestion Tax is totally self and short-sighted, particularly when families in our states are suffering from the pandemic. It’s almost if they’re begging people not to return to work as the pandemic stay-at-home orders are being lifted. 

Today, my good friend, Congressman Bill Pascrell, and I are formally requesting that U.S. Department of Transportation hit pause on any approvals and commit to a comprehensive review of the effects that this new congestion tax will have on Jersey’s commuters. We’re also requesting that USDOT require a robust public participation process, including public hearings here in Northern New Jersey, so they can hear first-hand just how badly our residents will get whacked with these new commuter taxes announced right now, there are no hearings planned here in northern New Jersey.  

In 2019, New York state legislators approved a congestion pricing system: a once-daily tax charged to more than 717,000 vehicles entering New York City’s Central Business District. And just a few days ago, the federal government gave them the green light to take the next step forward. Yes, when we already know our traffic can be unbearable, and when we’ve been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 economic crisis, they are actually going to tax hard-working men and women. It just doesn’t add up, and we are asking the feds to halt any further approval. 

I will also be re-introducing my bipartisan legislation: the Anti-Congestion Tax Act, also known as the Manhattan Moocher Prevention Act, which I introduced with Congressman Chris Smith last Congress. It will prohibit the Department of Transportation from awarding any new capital grants to MTA projects in New York until drivers from all three New Jersey crossings into Manhattan receive exemptions from any congestion tax.  And it would amend our tax code to offer drivers a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount paid in congestion taxes entering Manhattan. This will protect Jersey drivers from this double taxation.

The good news is that this legislative approach is not without precedent. In 1985, Congressman Guy Molinari from Staten Island used the same idea to push New York to change its tolling practices on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. He inserted a provision that would have docked the State of New York some of its federal funding from DOT, unless it removed two-way tolling on the bridge, and instituted a one-way toll only going into Staten Island. He got it done.

A couple of other insane things about New York’s proposed congestion tax:  First, New York has said that it won’t charge this new congestion tax to those who drive through the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, but they will to those who cross the GW Bridge. They must have missed their lesson in city planning. If that’s what happens, to avoid the extra $3,000 a year, commuters, their vehicles, and plumes of pollution, will all move to the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels.  That’s a lose-lose-lose for absolutely everyone, and our environment and commute times suffer, too. Can you imagine the additional traffic and gridlock? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Second, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) already raised costs for Jersey commuters by eliminating the carpool toll discount, which has been around since 1974, which had saved residents approximately $1,675 dollars per year – and saved our environment from endless smog. So, carpoolers now have to pay the full $15 GWB toll, and are now facing this new congestion tax when they get into midtown. 

Third, as I said, our metropolitan area is only just starting to recover from the severe economic effects of the pandemic. This metro area suffered the worst job loss among eighty-two metro areas as of July 2020, according to Moody’s Analytics. 

And, this to me is the most gowling part, unlike the tunnel and bridge toll revenue that goes to the Port Authority — meaning dollars help both New York and New Jersey improve each of their transportation systems — every dollar of this new congestion tax will go to New York City , and most of it to the MTA to help fix their subways. Not a cent will go back to the PATH or NJ Transit to actually help our state in any way. New Jersey families are guaranteed to get screwed and this is why we won’t, we’ve never done it. Joint state taxes have always been cooperative.  

This extra money for the MTA is on top of the $14 billion they’ve received from the COVID relief packages passed by Congress, and an estimated $1.5 billion they receive from the federal government annually. Again, they already got $14 billion… are you kidding me? Jersey commuters should not be responsible for bailing out the MTA, especially when Bill and I, along with others in Congress, already provided substantial relief. This is just New York mooching off Jersey to solve their own problems. It’s a ridiculous joke. 

Another key point: it would be one thing if our suburban commuters had a ton of other transit options to get into Manhattan. Unfortunately, as I said, they just don’t. If you’re in Franklin Lakes, Newton, Knowlton, or Ringwood, your options are limited. 

One final point: there’s just no consistency in New York’s congestion tax plan. 

While their new congestion tax exempts drivers using certain crossings into Manhattan — like the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels — as I said, it doesn’t exempt the George Washington Bridge, the most heavily trafficked bridge on the planet.  In other words, if you take the Lincoln or Midtown Tunnels, you won’t face the congestion tax. They claim it’s because the GWB doesn’t go into midtown. But here’s the rub, in what is blatant hypocrisy and the most faulty part, is commuters on the Henry Hudson Bridge won’t get hit with the congestion tax, even though it’s further north from midtown than the GWB. Hmm. They are going after Jersey. They are protecting New York drivers and screwing Jersey. 

They’re trying to rob us blind even though New Jersey residents are already some of the leading contributors to New York’s state income revenue. In fact, the income taxes paid by just New Jersey commuters for working in the City equaled the total income tax owed by 1.3 million people in the Western New York region, including places like Buffalo and Rochester.

That’s why I’m proud to join my colleague, Bill Pascrell, in requesting that USDOT do the right thing. Let’s all sit down and have a cooperative discussion on maintaining affordable commuting options for New Jersey and New York and finding a better path forward. Adding a tax on Jersey commuters who already pay a fortune is no way to make this region stronger.

When we work together, New Jersey and New York are a tough combination to beat. New York can easily pull back on this proposal and work with us toward a better solution for all. But right now, for Northern New Jersey, we have no other choice but to dig in and fight back, Jersey style, and that’s what we’re doing now and will continue to do. 

Thank you again and may God bless you and may God continue to bless the United State of America.

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