New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill late last week that would have capped late fees for unpaid tolls at New York City area bridges and tunnels, arguing it would essentially reward scofflaws for bad behavior.

The bill, known as the Toll Payer Protection Act, would have made a number of changes to the state’s Toll By Mail program on the Thruway system and at crossings in and around the city, including reductions to late fees charged against motorists who don't pay their bills within 60 days. It would have also created an eight-week amnesty program for MTA Bridges and Tunnels, where drivers could have paid overdue tolls without an additional fine.

But Hochul rejected the legislation late Friday, stating in her veto message it "would threaten the financial stability of the State’s transportation infrastructure, and would protect toll scofflaws rather than responsible toll payers and the roads and bridges New Yorkers rely on."

The bill dates back at least four years and was inspired by driver complaints that followed the rollout of cashless tolling on bridges and tunnels in the metropolitan area. Instead of paying an attendant at a toll booth, drivers are now billed via mail or E-ZPass.

Drivers who were unfamiliar with the state’s then-new Toll By Mail program were hit with late fees that quickly piled up to hundreds or thousands of dollars, leading the Thruway Authority to implement an amnesty program for Tappan Zee Bridge tolls in 2018 while Hudson Valley lawmakers pushed legislative changes in Albany

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed versions of the bill in 2018 and 2019, which the Legislature had passed overwhelmingly — as it did this year’s legislation.

The bill proposed capping late fees at $5 after 30 days of nonpayment. That matches the current $5 fee, but it would cement it in and prevent the Thruway Authority and MTA Bridges and Tunnel from changing it without legislative approval.

And the legislation would have capped late fees after 60 days of nonpayment at $25 or twice the amount of the overdue toll, whichever is greater. In most cases, that would be a reduction from the $50 to $100 fees issued for unpaid tolls.

The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan watchdog group, argued the bill would have impeded the state’s ability to convince drivers to pay their overdue tolls. The organization urged Hochul to veto the measure.

Creating an amnesty program for MTA Bridges and Tunnels would have sent a bad message, too, according to the group.

“Regardless of the length of time, granting amnesty for non-payment of legitimate tolls and charges is bad precedent and may increase the delinquency rate if drivers believe their liabilities may eventually be cleared,” the CBC wrote in a memo.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Leroy Comrie of Queens and Assemblymember Tom Abinanti of Westchester County, both of whom are Democrats.

Supporters of the measure said it would have aided motorists who are still learning the ropes of the state’s Toll By Mail program.

Abinanti said he was told Hochul had concerns with the bill. He said he was willing to negotiate changes, but the governor vetoed the bill instead.

"It's unfortunate that she vetoed it," he said. "We really need to have consumer protections for people who receive bills that include large and outrageous penalties."