Money & Politics with Larry Kudlow

Unlucky $13 Challenge to Our Recovery

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began selling $1 billion of taxable 40-year bonds Tuesday to finance construction of the World Trade Center. This comes as the Authority’s Board of Commissioners enacted a toll hike of 50 percent.

George Washington Bridge

So it comes as no surprise that theNew York Post reportsthat the toll hike on Hudson River crossings have caused an impact on business in New York.

Manhattan parking lots are reporting a drop-off and commuters are said to be abstaining from coming into New York.

To borrow a phrase by a former NY gubernatorial candidate, the tolls are too damn high.

This would normally be a local-news story, chalked up to the rising prices of just about everything.

But this is more than a local news story. This is a regional and national story with far greater industrial implications than commuters.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jerseynot only controls the entry-point for trucking into the largest city in the country, but also controls the gateway to the Northeast and New England for trucking along the I-95 corridor. Trucks pay $13 an axle, a $3 increase for those paying cash, and a $2 per axle increase for those paying with E-Zpass.

Truckers could save money by trucking across the Hudson at other crossings to the north. But to do so would cost about the same in gas. This 30 percent toll increase will no doubt be passed down to the consumer in higher prices for goods, food, and other commerce that comes from down south.

This not only interferes with interstate commerce, but there is a larger concern here, one of free-market capitalism being threatened by a de-facto tax imposed by a semi-autonomous body without direct representation.

This is a challenge to our economic recovery.

The Port Authority maintains it is raising tolls to offset the costs of rebuilding the World Trade Center. The American Automobile Association filed suit in Federal District Court Tuesday morning, stating the federal Bridge Act states that money derived from bridge and tunnel tolls must be directed solely to the upkeep of the bridges and tunnels. It has asked a judge to roll back the tolls. Will they win? Will the tolls be rolled back? Doubtful on both counts.

Fitch as rated the Port Authority bonds AA-, while the two other major ratings agencies have rated them Aa1. The bonds will have a final maturity date of 2051.

I can only imagine what the bridge and tunnel tolls will be then.

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