By Joseph De Avila and Paul Berger 

A group of New Jersey lawmakers is threatening to retaliate if New York moves forward with its plan to charge drivers a fee to enter Manhattan's central business district.

New Jersey state Sen. Joseph Lagana and Assemblyman Christopher Tully, both Democrats, said they are crafting legislation that would require nonresidents to pay state sales tax on tolls when driving between New Jersey and New York at crossings such as the George Washington Bridge.

The tax revenue would be used to reimburse New Jersey drivers who have to pay so-called congestion-pricing fees to travel into Manhattan, under New York's new program.

The congestion-pricing program, which was established by New York state in 2019, was supposed to be implemented earlier this year. But an environmental review by the Federal Highway Administration was held up under the Trump administration.

The Biden administration resumed the review process at the end of March. The review is expected to be completed later this year, paving the way for final design and construction of the tolling infrastructure. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is controlled by New York state, has said charges may begin in early 2023.

Mr. Lagana said New York's congestion-pricing plan, if approved, would unfairly punish commuters from his state.

"New Jersey is not New York City's piggy bank," Mr. Lagana said during a news conference Monday. "If they move forward with this scheme, it would be irresponsible not to find a way to protect our residents."

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.) said he plans to write to the Transportation Department to urge the Biden administration to reject New York's plan. Mr. Gottheimer also said he supports the efforts of state lawmakers in New Jersey to strike back with a sales tax on out-of-state drivers.

"If New York is going to attack our wallets, if they are going to attack our own families, we will give them a taste of their own medicine," Mr. Gottheimer said during the news conference.

New York's congestion charge will apply to vehicles entering a zone covering most of Manhattan between 60th Street and Battery Park. Those charges are expected to apply once each day to most vehicles entering the congestion zone. They will be set by a six-member panel chosen by the MTA.

The panel will have the power to grant credits, discounts or exemptions to certain groups, including those who have paid tolls on crossings. But it will also be bound by the program's goal to reduce congestion while raising about $1 billion in annual revenues to pay for mass transit upgrades in New York.

Mr. Tully said New Jersey drivers shouldn't be expected to fix the financial problems of the subway system in New York City.

"We should not be used to fund the MTA," Mr. Tully said.

Ken Lovett, an MTA spokesman, defended the program.

"This isn't the time for NIMBYISM and legally dubious taxation," Mr. Lovett said. "Congestion pricing will benefit everyone who comes to New York, including those from New Jersey, by providing reduced traffic and better air quality."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com and Paul Berger at Paul.Berger@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 10, 2021 17:09 ET (21:09 GMT)

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