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April 25, 2019

Mayor de Blasio warms to congestion pricing with ‘carve outs’ during annual Albany trip

February 12, 2019
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio testifies during a joint legislative budget hearing on local government in Albany. (Hans Pennink / AP)

Mayor de Blasio carved out his position on congestion pricing Monday, telling state lawmakers he will support the program as long as there are “hardship exemptions” for certain drivers.

The mayor made his comments during his annual pilgrimage to Albany to testify before the New York State Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committees about the state budget.

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“If congestion pricing is an option, please include hardship exemptions,” de Blasio said, adding that so-called “carve outs” should be made for the poor, seniors and those seeking medical treatment. He even entertained the idea of an exemption for farmers.

Gov. Cuomo has proposed a congestion pricing plan in Manhattan to help fund the city’s beleaguered transit system, which is run by the state.

De Blasio said he still believes a millionaire’s tax is the best path to raise funds for the MTA, but added that he’s open to a multi-pronged approach.

“A lot of people seem to be indicating that they believe there would have to be multiple pieces,” he said following his testimony. “And the math shows it, I don’t think it can be done with only one piece, and I think it’s pretty clear in terms of dollars and cents.”

He also called for a guarantee that funds raised by the program be used for the MTA, something Cuomo said he was on board with last week.

Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D-Brooklyn) panned the mayor’s approach, calling it “disingenuous.”

“At at the end of the day, with those carve-outs, we will end up raising not nearly enough revenue,” he said.

The governor’s office said that congestion pricing details are still being worked out with the Legislature. “The pricing structure will be determined after discussions with the Legislature and once all variables are analyzed to meet the goals of the plan,” Cuomo spokesman Patrick Muncie said in a statement.

Hizzoner lamented the economic uncertainty that he believes the city and state both face, saying he is “very concerned about the economy, very concerned about the stock market.”

Touching on the hot topics du jour, he defended the billion-dollar deal to bring Amazon to Queens and asked the Legislature to restore what he described as more than $600 million in cuts to state aid proposed by the Cuomo administration.

“It will mean program cuts, loss of jobs through attrition,” de Blasio warned.

He also made his case for an extension of mayoral control of city schools, called for criminal justice reform and a “commercial vacancy tax” that would penalize property owners for keeping retail spots empty.

With Democrats in control of both the state Senate and Assembly this session, de Blasio described his time in the capitol as a “tad warmer.”

“Definitely a more pleasant experience,” he said.

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However, there were still some heated moments as lawmakers grilled the mayor on a variety of issues.

Former city controller John Liu, now a Queens senator, peppered de Blasio with questions about homeless shelters.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), who ran a failed bid to unseat de Blasio 2017, sparred with de Blasio over the Big Apple’s sanctuary city status, property taxes and the city’s ballooning budget.

“If we are anticipating all these problems, less revenue coming into the city, why are you continuing to increase the budget dramatically?” she asked.

City controller Scott Stringer also appeared before the joint panel Monday, pushing the Democratic-controlled Legislature to continue to pass a progressive platform and a balanced budget.

“I feel more confident than ever in this legislature’s ability to advance a fair and equitable budget,” he said.

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