July 17, 2012
Howard P. Milstein, Chair, Board of Directors
New York State Thruway Authority
200 Southern Blvd.
P.O. Box 189
Albany, NY 12201-0189
Dear Mr. Milstein:
I am writing on behalf of Unshackle Upstate, a non-partisan, pro-taxpayer, pro-economic growth, education and advocacy coalition business and trade organizations, to voice our strong opposition to the proposed 45-percent increase in tolls along the New York State Thruway for vehicles with three or more axles.
Since the creation of our organization, Unshackle Upstate has opposed increased state spending, taxes, fees and assessments. We are a group committed to protecting the interests of the taxpayers and businesses across New York State.
As such, Unshackle Upstate has joined 19 other business groups representing companies of all sizes, such as farms, grocers, fuel suppliers, lumber mills and manufacturers, in fighting this potential increase.
In this fragile business climate, any tax or fee increase is poor public policy. A 45- percent increase is simply excessive, and its implementation will have horrific ramifications for businesses and consumers across Upstate New York. Either a business chooses to absorb the costs, drastically hurting its bottom line, or it decides it must pass the increased cost on to consumers. Either way, everything we use, consume or touch will cost more if this toll increase is implemented.
Tax and fee increases on consumers should be instituted only as a last resort or in the case of fiscal emergency. Governor Andrew Cuomo said it best when he discussed proposed rate increases for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), “The taxpayer, the toll payer, is not an endless, bottomless well for government to dip into to cure their incompetence.”
In this instance, Unshackle Upstate does not feel that the New York State Thruway Authority has met the criteria to justify such an exorbitant toll increase, and instead should be exercising its due diligence by exploring potential savings through internal efficiencies before raising tolls.
Case in point: In 2003, as the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) explored fare increases, the State Comptroller issued a forensic audit, which led to a series of reforms. In 2011, additional audits from the State Comptroller and New York City Comptroller’s offices noted that poor management “put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in cost overruns.”
Therefore, we must insist that you delay the implementation of any future toll increase until the Thruway Authority undergo a complete forensic audit by a third party. You have a responsibility to be good stewards of tolls. Prior administrations failed to do. It is up to you to correct the poor decisions of the past and fix this situation once and for all.
Executive Director Unshackle Upstate
Cc: New York State Thruway Board of Directors
Thomas J. Madison, Jr., Executive Director, New York State Thruway Authority
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
Senator Charles Fuschillo
Assemblyman David Gantt