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LIA: Congestion pricing must include help for suburban bus systems

Kevin Law, president and CEO, during a meeting

Kevin Law, president and CEO, during a meeting of the Long Island Association in Melville on Feb. 14, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

ALBANY — A Long Island business group is urging state leaders to beef up suburban bus service and complete the rollback of an unpopular tax as part of any “congestion pricing” plan.

 “It is imperative . . . that congestion pricing models must not unduly burden suburban commuters or neglect suburban bus systems which are already struggling,” Kevin Law, CEO of the Long Island Association, wrote Thursday in a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly.

 At issue is whether New York will adopt congestion pricing for driving in parts of Manhattan, how the proceeds from it will be allocated and how it fits into a broader plan to fix the troubled mass transit system.

 Cuomo backs congestion pricing — imposing a fee on drivers to travel through parts of Manhattan with the aim of reducing gridlock while generating revenue for the subways.

 Last year, lawmakers took what Cuomo described as a first step by imposing a fee on taxis and other for-hire ride services for trips going south of 96th Street. That fee was supposed to begin on New Year’s Day, but a state judge put it on hold amid a lawsuit by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance seeking to block the surcharge.

 Cuomo now is calling for a full congestion pricing plan that affects all vehicles, not just taxis.

 If such a plan is considered, the LIA believes it must allocate funding for suburban bus lines and completely eliminate a payroll tax imposed on employers in counties served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The payroll tax was eliminated for most businesses in 2011 but still applies to companies with annual payrolls of $1.25 million and higher.

A MTA work group issued a congestion pricing report in December that omitted any allocation to suburban bus services, Law said.

 State lawmakers are set to return for the first day of the 2019 legislative session on Wednesday. Any congestion pricing plan likely would be part of the state budget, which is supposed to be adopted by April 1, the start of New York’s fiscal year.

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