More than a decade after Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought unsuccessfully for Albany to enact congestion pricing, the plan has new momentum in the state capital.
In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New Yorkers could be charged to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street beginning in 2021. The state legislature would have to approve legislation for such a plan, which has failed in the state Assembly and Senate in the past.
Transit officials say the subway system is in desperate need of a long-term funding boost to pay for repairs and improvements. State officials say the plan would bring in $1 billion per year for the MTA. It is also expected to ensure that traffic flows more easily, with fewer cars on the road.
"We propose a reliable funding stream so we don't have to fight about this every year and they can plan. I propose, first, what's called congestion pricing," Cuomo said Tuesday. When the audience at his annual address applauded, he quipped, "Some people actually know what it is. I'm surprised."
The governor did not offer many details about the plan, like how much drivers would be charged and during what times of day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been skeptical of congestion pricing. Instead, he is backing a tax on wealthy New Yorkers to pay for transit improvements. But the so-called "Millionaires' Tax" would do nothing to encourage drivers to opt for public transportation.
"The most important need here is to come up with a long-term sustainable plan. And ultimately that has to be one the legislature feels good about," de Blasio said. "I don't think anything is off the table yet. I think this is really the beginning of the serious process."
Cuomo argued in his speech that the city and state should split the bill for any remaining transit improvements beyond those that congestion pricing revenues can cover. De Blasio is resistant.
"I think we need a long-term funding solution," the mayor said. "It is not something that can be paid for out of the city budget."
He also accused the governor of misleading the public about the history of city and state funding for the MTA. A spokesman for the governor said he is confident that Cuomo's information is accurate.
Cuomo embraced congestion pricing last year but appeared to do little to push the idea through the Republican-controlled State Senate.
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