February 3, 2000
Debate continues on Thruway tolls, HCRA's effect on county costs
Debate is continuing in Albany about proposals to increase Thruway tolls and to relieve New York's counties of a huge unfunded mandate created by the new Health Care Reform Act (HCRA).
A proposal from the Thruway Authority would increase tolls 1.8 percent in June, and allow future annual increases of up to 3 percent based on a 12-month average of construction costs in 20 U.S. cities.
The Senate, the Assembly, and state Comptroller H. Carl McCall have opposed the idea.
"An annual toll increase goes against everything we are doing to reduce the cost of doing business in New York State," Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said.
The Business Council has not taken a position on the proposal and is seeking its members' input on it. But Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh noted, "In general, we think Thruway revenues can best be improved by increasing traffic, not tolls."
Debate over HCRA reignited amid concern about its effect on costs in New York's counties.
The Senate has proposed state funding of $340 million over the next three years to offset counties' HCRA-related Medicaid cost hikes.
New York requires counties to pay a quarter of Medicaid costs. Few other states require localities to share Medicaid costs, and none passes along nearly as much of these costs as New York State.
Responding to the Senate proposal, Governor Pataki noted that HCRA includes nearly $1 billion in cost-containment savings for counties and New York City in the next three years.