- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A proposed congestion tax on commuters into New York City is going to cost Dominic Valente a lot of dough.

The owner of the Valente Yeast Co. says the $21-per-truck charge adds up to nearly $13,000 a year for his trucks’ daily deliveries of baking products from Maspeth, N.Y., into the bustling city, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is pushing for the new fee on cars and trucks.

“It’s tough enough for a small- to medium-size business to make a profit, and I can only pass so much cost onto my customers. With fuel-service charges, it just gets tougher and tougher, and it’s adding up to a lot of dough,” Mr. Valente said.

Mr. Bloomberg announced during an Earth Day speech Sunday that cars will be charged $8 and trucks $21 to enter Manhattan as an initiative to reduce the effects of global warming. The fee would apply 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room — congestion pricing,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his address at the American Museum of Natural History, which California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also attended.

“There’s no escaping the costs of the congestion on our streets. The costs are hidden, but they’re real,” Mr. Bloomberg said, citing rising asthma rates, high delivery costs and wasting fuel, which “fuels global warming.”

Mr. Bloomberg did not detail how the congestion will be tracked or charged. Oslo, Singapore and London already charge for congestion. London uses cameras to identify vehicle license plates but may move to satellite tracking.

In a video endorsement, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair called Mr. Bloomberg’s speech “a great act of leadership.”

“Your announcement will mark out New York as a global leader in the fight against climate change,” Mr. Blair said.

Walter McCaffrey, a lobbyist with Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free, which represents local businesses and unions, called it a “regressive tax scheme that places a severe economic hardship on countless New Yorkers who rely on their automobile to come into Manhattan to work.”

“The idea of a $5,000 a year tax to people making $40,000 a year is extremely onerous,” Mr. McCaffrey said. “There is a significant congestion problem; we all agree on that. But for all practical purposes, this is not the answer.”

Mr. McCaffrey says there is a political practicality to be addressed — the plan must be approved by the city council and state legislature, and with state Senate elections looming next year, both Republicans and Democrats are tax-shy.

“It has a great political liability,” Mr. McCaffrey said. “I think it is dead on arrival.”

According to a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey in January, New York City voters opposed congestion “pricing” by 62 percent to 31 percent. Of those polled, 67 percent used public mass-transit systems.

The plan was endorsed by Transportation Alternatives, which says the plans “will make the Big Apple a whole lot greener.”

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