RELEASE: Gottheimer Submits Legal Request For MTA Congestion Tax Revenue Calculations

MTA Refuses to Provide Information to Congress. Gottheimer Demands Transparency into NY’s Black Box. Evidence Suggests Congestion Tax Projected Revenue Far Exceeds NY State Law. MTA Wastes Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Every Year.

Feb 22, 2024
Press

Above: Gottheimer at the George Washington Bridge.

FORT LEE, NJ — Today, February 22, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced he had filed an official Freedom of Information Law or FOIL request to the MTA to provide any emails and documents containing the data, calculations, and discussions that went into their Congestion Tax revenue projections. The MTA has 30 days left to comply and respond. 

This follows the MTA becoming incredibly defensive and refusing to make their calculations public after Gottheimer released an evidenced-based report on the Congestion Tax. This Congressional report found the MTA will raise $3.4 billion a year from the Congestion Tax — $2.4 billion more than the New York State Legislature requires them to generate. Gottheimer originally asked the MTA to confirm their calculations 78 days ago. 

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Graphics of the posters can be found hereand here.

After years of mismanagement, receiving more than $17 billion in taxpayer dollars from the federal government since 2020 alone, and wasting billions more, the MTA should simply provide the data needed to back up their claims and share their calculations on their projected Congestion Tax revenue. If the Congestion Tax does make more than $3.4 billion, mathematically, the MTA could exempt all New Jersey crossings from the Congestion Tax and still raise its target $1 billion. 

TAXPAYER DOLLARS WASTED BY THE MTA: 

  • $3 billion a year just to service the MTA’s enormous debt.
  • $1 billion to expand the Second Avenue subway stations twice as large as experts say is needed.
  • $700 million a year lost to fare skippers. 
  • $200 million unnecessarily on the Long Island Rail Road expansion.
  • $30 million on unnecessary Times Square staircases.
  • $5 million on workers to look for fires at Brooklyn bus depot because the sprinklers don’t work.
  • $700,000 on subway gates designed to keep out fare-beaters which can be defeated by a simple hack.
  • And more.

“I’m sorry, but I refuse to let Janno Lieber’s MTA, which is clearly the worst run mass transit agency in the country, attempt to push the blame away from themselves and get away with highway robbery. Everything at the MTA is a black box. So, the real question is, despite requests from me 78 days ago, reporters, and everyone and their brother – why hasn’t the MTA come clean and produced all of the calculations for their revenue projections? said Congressman Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Last month, my Office submitted an official Freedom of Information Law or FOIL request to the MTA to provide any emails and documents containing the data, calculations, and discussions that went into their Congestion Tax projections.  Will it raise one billion dollars as it is legally required to under New York state law – or more like my evidence based report shows?” 

Gottheimer continued, “This wasn’t the path we wanted to take, but the MTA has left us with no choice. The public in New York and New Jersey deserves to know. Right now, all the MTA and New York’s Congestion Tax is doing is shifting the blame from those who are truly at fault — themselves.”

Gottheimer was joined by New Jersey State Senator Gordon Johnson and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Below: Gottheimer looking into the MTA’s Black Box.

Below: Taxpayer dollars wasted by the MTA 

Below: Federal funds received by the MTA .

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery below: 

Thank you for being here in Fort Lee. This park is another shining example of the incredible outdoors that North Jersey has to offer. 

We’re here this morning to demand transparency from the MTA about their Congestion Tax proposal – specifically how much they will raise from their new tax on the backs of hard-working Jersey commuters and families. In a minute, I’ll announce new actions I’m taking to force the MTA to come clean to the public and stop hiding the facts. 

A few weeks back, using every publicly available document, we crunched the numbers and produced a detailed, evidenced-based report on the Congestion Tax that’s been widely cited. We figured that, if it goes ahead, the MTA will raise $3.4 billion a year from the Congestion Tax – that’s about $2.4 billion more than the New York State Legislature required them, by law, to generate from the Congestion Tax to support the MTA. 

At that annual revenue level, the MTA wouldn’t need a nickel from Jersey drivers — they could still raise $1.4 billion without whacking drivers with the Congestion Tax who use the George Washington Bridge and the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. In other words, since the revenue will all go to be used to clean up the mess at New York’s woefully mismanaged MTA, New York should pay for it themselves – and not lay their problems at our feet. Remember, not a dime of the Congestion Tax goes to Jersey.

Instead of confirming our calculations, MTA CEO Janno Leiber and his henchmen got incredibly defensive, denied it and insulted everyone here in Jersey, including our Governor. I get their frustration — the walls are caving in on the MTA, everyone and their brother is coming out against the Congestion Tax, including everyone from New York small businesses, to cops, to teachers, to taxi and Uber or Lyft drivers, and to the countless commuters. Now, I don’t mind a good insult, but, instead of just telling us why we are wrong, what we would really like are just the facts. If MTA has a different number for their projected revenue, then just come out with it — and produce all of the calculations. 

Will the Congestion Tax raise more than a billion dollars a year? We don’t know but we deserve to if you’re going to start charging us thousands of dollars a year. But everything at the MTA is a black box. And it’s not just that they hide their numbers — it’s also a bottomless black box with endless wasteful spending.

So, the real question is, despite requests from me and reporters and everyone and their brother – why hasn’t the MTA come clean? 

Well, I have my suspicions. First, it may be even higher than our $3.4 billion projections. After all, their proposed Congestion Tax is insanely high. I’m talking about a real old school shellacking — up to $22.50 a day for cars — $5,850 a year, depending on if they are using an EZ Pass or not. That’s on top of the $17-a-day tolls you already pay for the bridges and tunnels — plus the cost of gas and parking. In a year, that can cost you up to $10,000 dollars to commute every day into New York City — that’s after-tax dollars. Try being a nurse or first responder or electrician or restaurant worker and pay that every day. 

The MTA has even given themselves the ability to increase the cost by 25% on so-called  “Gridlock Alert Days” – basically Uber-style surge pricing — and the authority to raise the Congestion Tax by 10 percent in 2024. 

The second reason the MTA might be refusing to come clean is that it’s just how they operate. Always has been. It’s generally accepted by everyone at this point that the MTA is the worst run mass transit system in the country. They have a $19 multi-billion-dollar budget and $47 billion in outstanding debt. They just don’t want anyone to see the extent of their mismanagement and wasteful spending. Let’s look at a few examples – and we’ll be handing out these sheets. 

Since 2020 alone, including during the pandemic, the MTA received more than $17 billion in taxpayer dollars from the federal government. It appears that the MTA and their CEO Janno Leiber went on an all night bender and blew it all because they’re already back in the red, running a three billion dollar annual deficit. 

The MTA has a blatant disregard for taxpayer dollars.

Let’s start at the top. The MTA is so mismanaged that they’re spending more than three billion dollars every single year, just to service their debt. That mismanagement is costing the MTA more than three times what the Congestion Tax is legally required to raise.

In December, it was revealed that the MTA’s new Second Avenue subway stations will cost taxpayers $1 billion dollars more than necessary because of mismanagement and poor design. Only the MTA could waste a billion dollars all in one swing…let’s not even get into the fact that the agency plans to spend more than $400 million on consultants for the project.

And let me rapid fire off even more examples of extreme waste. The MTA lost more than $700 million dollars to fair skippers last year alone; overspent by $200 million dollars on the Long Island Rail Road expansion; spent an extra thirty million dollars on staircases they didn’t need; and they spent $700,000 dollars on easily beatable fare gates. 

This doesn’t even include the $55,000 dollars for an MTA employee crashing their boat or the more than $1.3 million dollars they spent on what a judge described as an “orgy of overtime fraud.”

And these are just a few of the public examples that we know about. But the MTA covers everything up in their black box. It’s a bottomless pit of wasteful spending with no transparency. It’s no wonder the MTA feels the need to find new revenue sources to fund their legendary mismanagement and overruns. 

What’s really rich is that now, the MTA is claiming they don’t have any money left to improve public transit because of the Congestion Tax lawsuits? Really? You lose $700 million a year to fare skippers and overspent a billion dollars on a subway station, and you’re blaming Jersey, Manhattan, and outer borough residents who have sued you for your own mismanagement?

What’s worse is that, in retaliation for us asking questions, the MTA announced they are freezing their work and screwing over the hardworking men and women of labor who build, fix, and run the MTA every day. Maybe, instead of blaming others, New York and the MTA should take a long hard look in the mirror — and fix their own problems. The audacity of these people know no bounds. 

I’m sorry, but I refuse to let Janno Lieber’s MTA, which is clearly the worst run mass transit agency in the country, attempt to push the blame away from themselves and get away with highway robbery. Look, I’m all for improving mass transit, it’s why I helped write, pass, and fought to claw back billions for New Jersey public transportation in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. But right now, all the MTA and New York’s Congestion Tax is doing is shifting the blame from those who are truly at fault — themselves.

So, what do we do about it? How do we get the MTA to tell us the truth, provide their numbers on the Congestion Tax? How do we figure out what’s in the MTA black box? 78 days ago I publicly asked the MTA to share their data on how much the Congestion Tax will raise for New York. I even called Janno Lieber’s office and asked to sit down with him. Crickets. No call back, Is it more or less than $3.4 billion — and how much. Show us the math. As I said before, my report found that the MTA will raise more than three times the one billion dollars the Congestion Tax is legally required.

So, now, we are forced to do it the old fashioned way: 

This is new news. Last month, my Office submitted an official Freedom of Information Law or FOIL request to the MTA to provide any emails and documents containing the data, calculations, and discussions that went into their Congestion Tax projections.  Will it raise one billion dollars as it is legally required to under New York state law – or more? 

This wasn’t the path we wanted to take, but the MTA has left us with no choice. The public in New York and New Jersey deserves to know. 

Almost a month after submitting the request, we still haven’t heard anything back. Nada. For me, that’s a massive red flag. Again, over the last three years alone, the federal government gave the MTA more than seventeen billion dollars. 

You’d think that when a U.S. Congressman asks the MTA to provide data and simply back up their claims, they’d at least tell you they’re working on it. I’m not even asking them how they blew all of the federal taxpayer dollars. I just want to see their calculations on their projected Congestion Tax revenue. 

By law, they have about 30 days left to answer the FOIL and all the hardworking men and women in Jersey and New York that will get whacked by the Congestion Tax. By the way, in case they try to claim otherwise, we’ve read through the MTA’s submissions to the federal government and their Environmental Impact Statement — this data is not in any of their submissions.The Port Authority deserves to know too — it’s going to cost them and all of us $800 billion in lost revenue for capital projects like to fix the bridges, tunnels, airports, bus stations, and ports over the next decade.   

Before I close, I want everyone to remember who will be punished by the Congestion Tax.  

Think about the child with asthma in North Jersey who will now have more trouble breathing. 

Think about our cops, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, sanitation employees, and hardworking men and women of labor receiving no exemptions on their commutes. 

Think about the patients getting treatments at Mount Sinai, NYU Langone, or New York Presbyterian who will now have to pay to drive to their doctors’ appointments. 

Think about the more than $28,000 dollars per year a truck driver making deliveries will face because of the Congestion Tax or the working-class taxi and ride-share drivers who will also be hit.

Think about all the families who will be priced out of visiting New York City and all it has to offer. It will kill tourism and New York’s small businesses. 

I’ll make sure to update all of you as soon as we receive and analyze the information we receive in our FOIL request.

Here in the greatest country in the world, when we respect taxpayer dollars and work together to make life more affordable for everyone, I know 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.

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