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End the Buffalo commuter tax Lawsuit seeks to retain millions wrongly taken by state authority shaped by politics

Unmoved by fairness and oblivious to accountability, New York's Thruway Authority faces a lawsuit over its continued taxation without representation via the only downtown tolls it imposes. The court should hear this message: Repeal the unfair commuter tax on Buffalo, the city State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi just listed as the state's most financially stressed.

The Thruway Authority gouges local motorists 75 cents a trip into Buffalo, collecting $11 million per year at the Ogden and Breckenridge tolls. That money doesn't just help pay for a roadway that was supposed to end all tolls in 1996, but subsidizes two extra highways downstate, underwrites much of the cost of a now-recreational state canal system and pays for a Thruway unit of the State Police, which state tax dollars already fund.

Motorists near New York City have benefited since 1991 from a political gimmick Albany imposed, which helped bail out a cash-strapped Transportation Department by shifting the costs of Interstates 84 and 287 to the Thruway Authority, but banned the authority from collecting tolls on those roads.

That Buffalo motorists need to pay these tolls at all is unfair; neither Albany, nor Rochester, nor Syracuse, nor Utica have similar downtown tolls. County Executive Joel A. Giambra deserves praise for joining Erie County's law department to the worthwhile lawsuit effort launched by local developer Carl P. Paladino, even at a county cost of $35,000. It's a small taxpayer investment to try to stop financial pain for those who live and commute in this area. It could retain millions of dollars here for proper use.

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