New York Governor Kathy Hochul Moves to Tax Drivers to Fight Climate Change

In Hochul's New York, entering Manhattan at the wrong time could cost you $23

N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul (Getty Images)
June 29, 2023

New York governor Kathy Hochul is moving forward with plans to tax drivers as much as $23 to enter parts of Manhattan, a plan the Democrat says is aimed at fighting climate change.

Hochul on Tuesday held a press conference celebrating her administration's "congestion pricing" plan after it received federal approval. The plan, which could come into effect as early as next spring, taxes drivers who enter Manhattan's busy commercial districts using new toll stations. While Hochul has not finalized the toll's cost, a 2022 report on the plan included rates that reach as high as $23 and $17 during peak and non-peak times, respectively. Hochul hopes those costs will deter drivers from entering the areas, thus reducing tailpipe emissions, which the Democrat during her press conference called "wildfires that are happening on our own streets."

The plan marks Hochul's latest attempt to lead the nation on climate change policies. No other U.S. city or state utilizes congestion pricing, which Hochul on Tuesday said will help drivers "see the light" and take public transit or ride bikes to enter the city's busiest sections. In addition to the first-of-its-kind transportation policy, Hochul in May made New York the first state in the country to ban natural gas connections in new buildings, a policy that will effectively end the use of gas stoves and other appliances in those buildings.

"Just like we had to go … a long time ago to transition from coal as your energy source, we do have to transition. These are clean energy alternatives," Hochul said last month. "This is where our nation has to go eventually."

Hochul, who did not return a request for comment, has attracted widespread condemnation from New Jersey's liberal leaders over the congestion pricing plan. Commuters already pay pricey tolls to enter New York City—New Jersey drivers who enter the city through the George Washington Bridge, for example, pay a $17 toll, meaning a one-way trip to Manhattan could cost those drivers $40. But none of that money will go back to New Jersey, prompting the state's governor, Phil Murphy (D.), to threaten to sue Hochul to stop the plan.

"The Federal Highway Administration's decision to green-light the MTA's proposed tolling program," Murphy's office said Tuesday, "marks yet another slight against hardworking New Jerseyans in favor of an agency concerned not with removing vehicles from our roads, but with lining its own coffers." Members of the state's Democratic congressional delegation, including Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill, have also condemned the plan.

Beyond Hochul's intention to fight climate change through the new tax, Hochul said the policy would also lead to less noise and "fewer kids getting hit by cars on their way to school." Hochul said she expects 15 to 20 percent fewer cars will travel to Manhattan's Central Business District each day under the policy.

It's unclear if those who drive into the city will be as willing to take New York City public transit as Hochul thinks. Violent crime has plagued New York's subway stations in recent days—earlier this week, a group of teens stabbed a woman in the head on a train in Brooklyn. Days prior, two men were shot and stabbed on New York City trains in separate incidents that occurred just hours apart.