"We have the dubious distinction of having some of the highest tolls in the nation," Carlucci said. "Unfortunately, what we see is those costs of tolls eat away at the cost of living for families across New York, particularly middle class families. Their quality of life is impacted because they have to spend more and more money just getting to work. We know that commuters are really the lifeblood of our economy. If commuters can travel freely at an inexpensive rate across our communities, that helps the economy overall."Carlucci said the final wording and details of the legislation are still being worked out and it does not yet have a sponsor in the Assembly, but the toll relief plan would would offer commutes a toll tax credit up to $250 per year. According to Carlucci, toll costs for a commuter who crosses the Tappan Zee Bridge on a daily are more than $720 per year. The credit would be in place for the 2014 income tax year.
"What we want is a $250 tax credit," Carlucci said. "It would be dollar for dollar for those tolls until you get to that $250 level."
"On behalf of the 2.7 million AAA members residing in New York State, I would like to thank Senator Carlucci for sponsoring this important legislation," said Chairman of the Legislative Committee for AAA John A. Corlett, who joined Carlucci and othersat the Nyack River Club Friday. "Tolls in the New York metropolitan area continue to escalate, making it more challenging for hard working commuters to make ends meet."
Corlett explained that the Port Authority implemented 50 percent toll hikes which will take effect in 2014 and 2015.
Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White said that toll relief is particularly important in Rockland County due to its limited mass transit options.
"There is no simple way to get to any of the major job centers from this part of the county or this side of the river without driving or paying a substantial toll, a toll that cuts deeply into the wages people might make at their hard-earned jobs," White said. "This lack of public transit and high toll structure makes it difficult for us to attract new residents who appreciate the beauty of our county, the community feeling in our wonderful towns and villages. But they can’t imagine how they can afford the tremendous added cost of getting to work every day that comes both in the form of tolls and all of the expense s and difficulties associated with having to get into one’s car every single day and face a tough commute."
White said it was important to continue working to improve mass transit options in Rockland County, but the proposed legislation would be helpful as a short-term solution.
"Until we have a reliable and expanded mass transit system, any help commuters forced into their cars is valuable," White said. "It is not a long-term solution, but it is an excellent proposal to help people right now."
Mike Hekker, owner of the Nyack River Club, said anything that puts more money in people's pockets is important for his business. He said it would also help employees of his who commute from Westchester County.
"We make our entire existence in Nyack, and all of our restaurants, on people’s extra money," Hekker said. "I have several employees who use that bridge every day to come to work. My bookkeeper Nancy Goshin has been with me for 30 years. 25 years ago, we opened up a restaurant in Westhcester so she commutes back and forth between those two places. I never think about the fact that she’s got to pay that toll, but I’m sure does."
Carlucci said that the credit could save a daily commuter who uses the Tappan Zee Bridge up to 35 percent of the cost of commuting.
"This is a plan we think will help the entire state of New York and deliver that much-needed help to middle class families that have to commute every day to work," Carlucci said.
Click here for video from Friday's press conference.