RELEASE: Gottheimer Rallies with Labor Unions Against $23/Day Congestion Tax Threatening Their Jobs and Port Authority Infrastructure

Aug 08, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer and labor unions rallying against New York’s Congestion Tax.

FORT LEE, NJ — Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer rallied with labor unions and Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4) against New York’s and the MTA’s new $23-a-day — $5,000-a-year — cash-grabbing Congestion Tax.

New Jersey and New York’s hardworking men and women of labor protect our critical infrastructure and region, help build the Tri-State area, and keep it moving every day. They make sure our trains, buses, bridges, tunnels, airports, rails, ports, and bus terminals are always operating safely and smoothly. New York and the MTA’s new Congestion Tax will put an immense financial burden on labor who have no choice but to drive to work. Many won’t be able to afford the Congestion Tax, which could result in labor shortages and put public safety at risk.

Furthermore, according to the MTA’s own projections, if what they say is true and 20% of drivers stop coming to the Congestion Zone, the Congestion tax will leave a billion-dollar hole in lost revenue over the next decade at the Port Authority for their capital projects — meaning fewer jobs for hardworking men and women of labor and fewer infrastructure improvements here in Jersey.

Port Authority Capital Projects that could be impacted by the MTA’s Congestion Tax include: 

  • Renovating GWB to fix suspension cables.
  • Replacing the Lincoln Tunnel helix.
  • Upgrading the PATH train. 
  • Repairs to Newark, La Guardia, and JFK airports.
  • Renovating the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

“Our men and women of labor often have no choice but to drive to work – they have to get in early or late to make a shift, or their job requires a vehicle. Yet, the MTA’s answer to the problems they created is to take a 2×4 to the hardworking men and women of labor. Many of them won’t be able to afford this new tax, so they may have to leave their jobs. Others won’t apply – and you’re talking about jobs that are already experiencing massive shortages,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Despite knowing all of this, New York has the nerve to slap our police and labor, the transit workers, the CWA, the building trades, across the face with a $23-dollar-a-day — $5,000 a year — Congestion Tax. New York is willing to risk losing these essential workers so they can bail out their mismanaged MTA!”

“Governor Hochul’s congestion pricing plan is just another thinly veiled tax on an already overtaxed middle class. For too long, tristate area commuters have been forced into being the ATM for the MTA and have seen no tangible benefits.  The opposition to this newly proposed fee on commuters entering lower Manhattan comes from across the board, and I will continue working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Hudson, like my friend Congressman Josh Gottheimer, to reject this plan by Governor Hochul,” said Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4).

“I’m the president of the Port Authority Sergeants Benevolent Association.I’m also the chair of a coalition representing all of New York and New Jersey’s Port Authority workers whose leaders are here today and joining us. Along with Congressman Gottheimer and Congressman D’Esposito, we stand here today to call for an exemption from the MTA’s reckless and misguided congestion pricing plan for our workforce. Put simply, the MTA’s financial struggles should not be solved on the backs of the essential workers who continue to get squeezed as a result of the MTA’s mismanagement,” said Port Authority Sergeants Benevolent Association President Rob Zafonte. “What about the financial harm that will be inflicted on the essential Port Authority workers whose pockets will be picked every time they commute in and out of the congestion pricing zone?”

“I proudly stand here today with the other union leaders and other labor groups from the Port Authority. We’re not happy with this price planning as well. I’m concerned about my workers that have to come through Manhattan from Long Island and North Jersey over the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel, respectively, to get whacked by this $23/day. They have to drive to their workplace when public transportation is not available,” said Transport Workers Union Local 1400 President Patrick Reynolds.

“The Port Authority PBA is extremely appreciative of Congressman Gottheimer’s and Congressman D’Esposito’s efforts to acknowledge  the additional financial burden  that the MTA’s congestion pricing will place on essential workers and all commuters who have no choice but to travel into Manhattan to perform their daily duties,” said Port Authority Police Benevolent Association President Frank Conti.

“On behalf of the CWA Local 1032 Branch 8 of the Port Authority we stand in solidarity with our fellow unions, laborers, and Congressman Gottheimer to exempt the hardworking Port Authority employees from the MTA congestion increase set to take place next year. The CWA members are the backbone of the agency. Without the essential administrative support the Port Authority would not be able to function. Putting this additional expense on employees traveling to support the agency and all of its essential employees is another hardship our membership will not be able to financially recover,” said Communications Workers of America Local 1032 President Jacquelyn Wells and Vice President Gabrielle Herrera.

“We are so honored that the Congressman comes here daily. This guy is at every town hall event, he’s at every parade, and when we thought that wasn’t enough, he put a satellite office in borough hall. This is a man that does not stop fighting for Fort Lee, Bergen County, and the entire state of New Jersey. I think that is evident by all of the support behind him,” said Fort Lee Councilman Bryan Drumgoole.

Gottheimer was joined today in Fort Lee by Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4), NJ Assemblywoman Shama Haider, Fort Lee Councilman Bryan Drumgoole, Park Ridge Mayor Keith Misciagna of IBEW 164, Port Authority Sergeants Benevolent Association President Rob Zafonte, Transport Workers Union Local 1400 President Patrick Reynolds, Transport Workers Union Local 229 President Steve Hamm, Port Authority Police Lieutenants Benevolent Association President Jimmy Griglio, Port Authority Police Benevolent Association President Frank Conti, Communications Workers of America Local 1032 Vice President Gabrielle Herrera, Field Maintenance Supervisors, and New Jersey men and women of labor

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer and labor unions rallying against New York’s Congestion Tax.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mayor, and council, for your fight and for never wavering. I want to thank my good friend, New York Congressman Anthony D’Esposito, for making the trip here – for his work with me on the bipartisan Anti-Congestion Tax legislation, and for his leadership on this issue. 

I’m incredibly proud to also be standing beside our brave Port Authority Police who put their lives on the line every day to protect our critical infrastructure, region, and families day in and day out against crime and terror. 

We are also lucky to be joined by the men and women who help build this state, our country, and keep it moving every day. They’re the people who make sure Jersey’s trains, buses, bridges, tunnels, airports, rails, ports, and bus terminals are always operating safely and smoothly. Without each and every one of them, our infrastructure would crumble, our planes would be grounded, our trains would be delayed, and our economy would grind to a halt in the blink of an eye. 

Before I begin, but related to what we’re talking about today, I’d like to express my unwavering support for the men and women of New Jersey Transit Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. For Jersey to excel, we need a strong and safe mass transit system — and that’s not possible without our hardworking NJ Transit locomotive engineers and trainmen. 

Now, we are back here in Fort Lee this morning, overlooking the George Washington Bridge, where, if New York and the MTA have their way, Jersey and outer borough commuters — including the hardworking men and women of labor next to me — will be paying a new $23-dollar-a-day — $5,000 dollar -a-year — Congestion Tax to go to work in the city. That’s $23 dollars on top of the tolls commuters already pay, whether they’re coming from Hackensack New Jersey or Hempstead in Long Island – and that’s on top of parking and gas. You’re talking about $100 dollars-a-day, before you get a cup of coffee. 

It’s right here in Fort Lee where New York’s MTA told the federal government, in their own report, that the Congestion Tax will lead to new traffic patterns, including massive car traffic at the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels — and a surge of truck traffic right here at the bridge. That truck traffic will also spike in New York’s outer boroughs. The result? Plumes of new pollution, including toxins like formaldehyde, that cause cancer and asthma in our children and families. 

The Governor of New York and the head of the MTA have admitted that they need the cash because the MTA is so mismanaged, and woefully in debt. They lost $700 million last year to fare skippers alone. 

So, the MTA needs a billion dollars a year from the Congestion Tax off the backs of hard-working folks who often lack mass transit options, and have no choice but to drive.

I believe we must invest heavily in better and more available trains, buses, and environmentally beneficial solutions. But not one penny from the Congestion Tax will help NJ Transit. Not one penny for the Port Authority, the PATH train, or the bus terminal.  

I helped write and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which included $4.5 billion dollars to improve New Jersey’s public transit, and is, at long last, building the Gateway Train Tunnel. 

And, just yesterday, I was in Sussex County inspecting the site of a potential new Amtrak and NJ Transit station. 

We must do more for mass transit. But these efforts will take years, and right now, so many commuters have no choice but to get in their car to work and feed their family. 

That’s where nurses, taxi drivers, and the hardworking men and women of labor come in — transit workers, communication workers, and law enforcement. 

The MTA and its chairman, Janno Lieber, doesn’t care that it will suddenly cost them, these folks behind me, $23 a day more — $5,000 a year — for them to get to work. They are the very people who protect our communities, drive and fix the trains and buses, run our airports and ports, build and fix our roads, bridges, and tunnels, and keep this artery, with 20 percent of the nation’s GDP, running safe every day. And these folks often have no choice but to drive – they have to get in early or late to make a shift, or their job requires a vehicle. 

Yet, believe it or not, the MTA’s answer to the problems they created is to stick it to the hard-working men and women of labor. The MTA is taking a 2×4 to the men and women of labor. Many of them won’t be able to afford this new tax, so they may have to leave their jobs. They told me this directly. Others won’t apply – and you’re talking about jobs that are already experiencing massive shortages. 

Yes, despite knowing all of this, New York has the nerve to slap our police and labor, the transit workers, the CWA, the building trades, across the face with a $23-dollar-a-day — $5,000 a year — Congestion Tax.

New York is willing to risk losing these essential workers so they can bail out their mismanaged MTA!

That’s why we are here this morning because I’ll tell you, you don’t screw with Jersey and you don’t mess with a former cop — Congressman Anthony D’Esposito. 

I can tell you right now we’re ready to put up a fight. On our side, we have Governor Murphy and Democratic and Republican colleagues across New Jersey and New York.

If New York’s plan to tax our first responders and labor isn’t bad enough, according to the MTA’s own projections, and if what they say is true, 20 percent of drivers will stop coming to the Congestion Zone. They’ll be priced out of going to work in New York City. And guess what, that will leave a billion-dollar hole in lost revenue over the next decade at the Port Authority. Fewer commuters, fewer tolls. That’s a billion less for the Port Authority’s capital projects. The MTA is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul to boost revenue for the MTA.

That will gut new investment in our region’s mass transit, including the new planned bus terminal in New York City to replace the current decrepit, maxed out one… investment in the Path train… and all the work upgrading LaGuardia, Newark, and Kennedy airports — not to mention critical safety work at the aging GW Bridge behind us, our tunnels, and ports. 

And I want to thank Kevin O’Toole and Rick Cotton for their leadership and vision at the Port.

My question to the MTA: How are we going to close this massive budget gap at the Port Authority? What is the plan to keep infrastructure investment in the region? 

The bottom line is the Congestion Tax is not about reducing pollution or traffic. It’s nothing but a cash grab — and they are willing to do it off the backs of labor and the backs of our families in Jersey, Long Island, the outer boroughs. And at the risk of giving cancer to our children.

Let me be very clear: We need our Port Authority Police, our transportation workers, administrative staff, field supervisors, communications workers, maintenance workers, engineers, electricians, mechanics, and carpenters. New Jersey, New York, and our nation are nothing without them.

I will never stop fighting to protect you and your jobs because I know how immensely important your work is to our families, our infrastructure, and our safety.  

You’ve always had our backs and it’s time New York wakes up and gets yours.

My recommendation to the MTA: don’t blow a hundred years of cooperation with the Port Authority between our two states. Do the right thing: clean up the MTA. 

Don’t make that hard-working mom or dad who has an overnight shift, the labor who built your city, or the law enforcement officers who keep you safe pick up the tab. 

I’m confident that here in the greatest state, in the greatest country, if we work together — not against each other — our best days will always be ahead of us. Thank you, and may God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Now let me introduce my good friend from New York — Anthony D’Esposito.

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