Plastic bag ban, congestion pricing expected in New York State budget

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature have reached a deal to make New York the third state with a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags as they worked to finalize budget agreements, officials said Friday.

The ban would prohibit grocery stores from providing plastic bags for most purchases, something California has been doing since a statewide ban was approved in 2016. Hawaii has an effective statewide ban, with all its counties imposing their own restrictions.

The agreement would be part of the state budget that's due by Monday, but it wouldn't take effect until next March.

Supporters of such bans say they keep plastic bags from entering the environment and causing damage to ecosystems and waterways.

"With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers," Cuomo, who proposed a ban in his $175 billion budget proposal, said in a statement Friday.

The plan also calls for allowing local governments the option to impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 3 cents going to the state's Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents kept by local governments.

The ban applies only to single-use bags and will not apply to dry cleaning bags, trash bags, or produce bags.

Negotiations on other aspects of Cuomo's proposed $175 billion spending plan are continuing Friday, with the Senate and Assembly expected to start passing budget bills Sunday.

Another hot topic in the budget is congestion pricing, and the plan to electronically toll drivers south of 60th Street in Manhattan has gained traction in the last few days.

The plan would make New York the first U.S. city to join the ranks of London, Stockholm, Milan and Singapore with such a system, forcing drivers to decide if an added toll makes public transportation a better option.

Lawmakers said they want to raise a billion dollars a year for the MTA, but so far there's been few confirmed details -- including how much drivers will have to pay.

The fee is expected to be more than $10 per trip.

There is still some pushback from suburban commuters, outer borough residents and delivery-based businesses, but all sides in Albany have promised some sort of congestion charge will be in the state budget by the end of the weekend.

First proposed unsuccessfully over a decade ago by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, congestion pricing was considered a political long shot until Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support two years ago as the problems with the city's subway system became more acute and its roadways got even more crowded with the arrival of thousands of app-based livery cars.

"We now finally have the body politic ready to pay more, and we have to attack congestion," Cuomo said this week on New York City public radio. "We have to get these cars off the road. You can't even drive in Manhattan."

Lawmakers have also agreed on a measure that would close two yet-to-be-determined state prisons, after Cuomo announced last month he wanted to close three prisons because of the state's declining inmate population.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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