Let’s Act Now To Ease The Pain At The Pumps!

April 28, 2006

The temperature outside is not the only thing on the rise. Gas prices continue to rise at a steady pace and motorists in this state can no longer sustain the increased costs. That is why, this past week, I introduced a two-part plan to help New Yorkers save at the pump and begin the transition for the future to end our addiction to foreign oil.

In the short-term, we have the responsibility to help New Yorkers ease the burden of soaring gas prices. As such, I have proposed placing a cap on the gasoline sales tax for any amount above $2.00 per gallon. Based on current gas prices, that will save motorists about $.10 per gallon. My colleagues and I introduced this amendment on April 11, but it was defeated 77-64 with 77 majority members voting it down. I was disappointed that some of my counterparts do not have the same understanding that I do when it comes to what these debilitating prices mean to you and this state.

As many of you know, a crucial source of revenue for the state but particularly for our communities in the Finger Lakes region is tourism. We rely on tourists for our economy to survive and if we do not start helping people make driving their vehicles more affordable, the effects on businesses will be devastating. Here are some facts about the Finger Lakes region and why it is so important to our community: More than 14,865 people are employed in the region, over $200 million in taxable visitor spending, and it reaps more than $8 million in state tax revenues. We must maintain the viability of this world-wide tourism destination. A decrease in tourism to the Finger Lakes region simply because people cannot afford the gasoline to travel is unacceptable and I will work hard to prevent it.

Currently, New Yorkers are paying on average, $3.08 per gallon of gasoline, the highest average among all states in the northeast. Contributing to the high cost of gas is the seven different taxes motorists pay when they use the pump. We are one of only a handful of states to subject gasoline to a sales tax and it is the only tax that is pegged to the price of gas. This means that as the price of gas continues to go up and you continue to be squeezed, the state is reaping a huge windfall. The increased revenue is not part of any budget projection for this fiscal year and as such, that money ought to be returned to you.

I believe the tax cap is a good short-term solution for New York as we head into the summer travel months, but it is by no means a long-term resolution. In order for us to be free from our dependence on fossil fuels, we must implement measures to entice businesses, citizens, and institutions of higher learning to develop, research, and use alternative energy fuels such as ethanol and bio-diesel.

Our Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund is designed to do exactly that. We propose placing the state sales tax revenue generated from the second dollar of gas into the fund, which will go to tax credits for buying hybrid or fuel-flexible vehicles, and to businesses for the installation or conversion of fueling stations for alternative fuels, grants for academic institutions and public/private consortiums dedicated to research and development of alternative fuels, travel plazas on the Thruway with alternative fueling stations, and the construction of an ethanol refinery.

The long-term solution to our energy problem is to implement proactive measures that increase the availability of alternative fuels and transition away from fossil fuels. This plan does exactly that. I am proud that the Assembly minority conference has the vision for a better New York, free of dependence on foreign oil, to make our state cleaner and strong economically while saving you money for fueling and energy costs.

We know what is at stake as a result of rising fuel costs. A struggling tourism industry, ailing small businesses, and financially pinched working families are real concerns I share with my Assembly minority colleagues, which is why we were disappointed when the Assembly majority voted down our tax relief program. Despite the disappointment, we plan to force another vote for the tax relief plan and I vow to continue to fight for you so that our communities remain strong and free of burdensome fuel costs.