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Money for these new projects has to come from somewhere—and user fees, especially in the absence of dramatic reform to labor costs, are typically the most efficient source. The Thruway Authority has needed a bailout from the state's general fund to cover deficits after earlier toll increases were denied. Lower tolls mean higher income or sales taxes and less fiscal autonomy for an authority that's supposed to be independent and objective.
It is heartening to see the governor verbally commit to important infrastructure improvements, but this toll reduction and highway funding proposal is the equivalent of a high school student body presidential campaign—'We're gonna double the amount of food in the vending machine, but we're gonna stop charging for it.' Consider the new Tappan Zee Bridge project in the context of the toll freeze: Voters understand that bridges cost billions of dollars to build. It's entirely reasonable to raise tolls modestly to help pay off the debt from building it. It's good to be bold, but we have to be responsible and efficient, too.
Alex Armlovich is a Policy Analyst at the Manhattan Institute.