Murphy weighs in on congestion pricing, millionaire’s tax

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

New Jersey drivers who already pay double-digit bridge and tunnel tolls into Manhattan want to slam the breaks on New York’s congestion pricing.

“You can’t park, the tolls are too high. It’s out of control,” said Somerset resident Phil.

Congestion pricing would charge motorists entering the heart of Manhattan below 60th street anywhere between $11 and $25 to raise funds for the city subway system. Another Jersey Phil also objected Thursday — strenuously.

“Double-tolling those commuters would make this plan neither fair nor equitable, and it could make it counterproductive,” said Murphy.

Murphy expressed particular concern about commuters crossing the George Washington Bridge — 60% of trans-Hudson vehicular traffic. Unlike drivers who would likely get a credit for using the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, which exit directly into the congestion pricing zone, commuters on the George Washington Bridge would get no credit.

“I have strong concerns, starting with the lack of signals from the MTA, that either George Washington Bridge commuters will be treated equally with commuters entering midtown Manhattan via the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, or that NJ Transit and PATH will get additional capital support from congestion pricing,” Murphy said.

717,000 cars enter Manhattan south of 60th street every day, and 95,000 of them — about 13% — come from Jersey. Murphy predicted many double-tolled George Washington Bridge commuters to beat congestion pricing would make an end run that would end badly.

“Other than paying the extra toll — which they will not be happy about, and I won’t stand for — either they’ll start using the tunnels, increasing traffic and traffic-related pollution at their entrances, or they’ll be pushed to the already-stretched NJ Transit and PATH systems,” said Murphy.

Murphy said his office has been in touch with Gov. Cuomo’s to seek a fair solution, plus a slice of revenues for NJ Transit when congestion pricing kicks off in 2021. The governor also gently celebrated a new Rutgers-Eagleton/FDU poll showing 72% of New Jersey adults strongly or somewhat support raising taxes on households earning more than $1 million a year. Twenty-eight percent oppose it — as do leaders in the legislature, who claim Jersey is overtaxed as it is. Murphy is encouraged.

“Over 70% of folks in this state believe it’s the right thing to do, and that is rewarding. And I was a little bit surprised — not shocked — but a little bit surprised,” Murphy said.

The poll also showed Murphy’s approval rating remains over 50% — 43% disapprove. The governor spoke during a news conference at Cranford High School. The district celebrated an increase in state education aid this year. It plans to hire two new school counselors. Murphy’s FY 2020 spending blueprint, which boosts education funding by more than than $200 million statewide, depends on that millionaire’s tax increase to raise almost $450 million.

The battle over increasing any tax will be fierce this year, especially with the Assembly up for re-election. Budget hearings are already underway.