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Tolling Points

Cuomo Veto Averts Chaos in NY State Toll Collection

By: 
Bill Cramer

It isn’t every day that a state governor’s veto turns out to be the result of a careful search for a creative middle ground. But judging by the news coverage, that’s what’s happening in New York State, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed out the year by vetoing a bill that would have obstructed tolling agencies’ ability to collect delinquent accounts.

The Toll Payer Protection Act had received unanimous support in the state legislature, following initial complaints about the implementation of all-electronic tolling in different parts of the state. “Grand Island's cashless tolls brought convenience to thousands of commuters, but the cashless system also brought headaches and confusion for drivers used to paying a dollar, or less, to take the I-190 between Buffalo and Niagara Falls,” noted a local TV station in Buffalo, WIVB4, in an early January news report.

The specific cases sounded like the typical hiccups that accompany the introduction of new technology in just about any industry—not even tolling is immune, and agencies were moving swiftly to work out the bugs. The problem with the legislation was that it amounted to using a chainsaw to cut butter, or a pile driver to crack nuts. By allowing any driver to appeal an assessment to an administrative authority before paying them, it would have thrown toll collections—and essential highway revenue—into disarray.

“Sen. Chris Jacobs co-sponsored the Senate version of the legislation, and points out some car owners' vehicle registrations are being suspended, possibly without cause,” WIVB4 reports. But “in his veto message, Gov. Cuomo said the legislation would cause, ‘problematic changes to the capability of toll authorities to both collect and enforce toll violations.’"

At a time when the state’s tolling agencies are losing millions of dollars to toll evaders, the legislation "would facilitate greater toll evasion, putting a greater financial onus on law abiding users, which is untenable,” the Governor added.

Jacobs acknowledged that “with good heads and good intentions we can resolve this, but we need to get to work."

And indeed, it sounds like that’s exactly what’s happening. A New York State Thruway Authority official said “many of the measures in the vetoed bill have already been implemented, and the authority has made a number of customer-friendly improvements,” WIVB4 notes. Cuomo indicated he would "propose additional enhancements to benefit all system users” when he releases his 2019 executive budget later this month.

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