Stateline Story

Anti-Tax Governors Are OK With Commuter Toll Hikes

Starting next month, thousands of commuters who use the EZ Pass system to cross the bridges and tunnels between New Jersey and New York will pay 19 percent more in tolls, or an additional $1.50 for each trip , the governors of the two states have announced.

Further fare increases will be phased in over time, eventually costing EZ Pass users an extra $4.50 for each trip, a 56-percent increase over five years.

Those who pay in cash, meanwhile, will face an immediate 50-percent hike under the plan, as The New York Times reports . For commuters entering Manhattan via the Holland or Lincoln tunnels, that amounts to $12 for each trip instead of the current $8.

The governors' proposal, which is likely to be ratified today (August 19) by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is less costly for commuters than the one the transit agency originally proposed. But it nevertheless represents significant toll hikes for drivers and rail passengers, and it underscores the nuanced positions that the two states' chief executives, Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey and Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York, have taken when it comes to revenues.

Both men have sworn off tax increases, calling them a burden on residents and the wrong way to balance budgets during an economic downturn. In perpetually struggling New Jersey, where the ratings agency Fitch downgraded the state's credit rating earlier this week, Christie has repeatedly rejected Democratic calls for higher taxes. In New York, Cuomo angered many members of his own party by ruling out tax hikes even before taking office. Cuomo, as Stateline has noted, is the only Democrat among 12 new governors who have flatly rejected tax increases.

But their decision on the Port Authority shows that both Christie and Cuomo do not view all revenues as off the table. "We did not want to see any toll increase," the two men said in their proposal. But "given the crisis facing the Port Authority and its finances, and the potential safety and economic risks to commuters and businesses," they added, "an increase cannot be avoided."