Rising Gas Prices A Concern For Summer Months

May 12, 2006

It’s well known the annual summer rise in gas prices is on its way. However, due to a number of circumstances, we also have to deal with gas prices that have already reached overwhelmingly high levels. You can be certain that, this summer, we will pay much more at the pump.

New York state has the highest amount of gas taxes in the nation, an astonishing 65 cents per gallon. Included in that total amount are excise, petroleum business, spill, federal, state and local taxes, as well as a petroleum-testing fee.

New Yorkers pay about 20 cents above the national average for each gallon of gas. Average prices in the Finger Lakes region are around $3 per gallon, with some stations charging nearly $3.10.

The residents of our region rely on their vehicles. Parents must drive their kids to school, the doctor’s office, sports practices and after-school activities. Many families drive large cars, minivans and sport utility vehicles, especially during the winter when the snow flies, to provide safety for their passengers. Farmers in my district also feel the squeeze when they use their diesel-guzzling tractors, farm equipment and transport trucks.

Oil industry analysts are predicting gas prices may reach or exceed $4 per gallon by Labor Day. Filling up vehicles with gas – sometimes every day – is a huge burden on everyone, and eventually families and commuters will face tough budgeting decisions.

My Assembly minority colleagues and I recently introduced a bill imposing a state gas sales tax cap on fuel over $2 per gallon. While the cap would save drivers 4 cents per gallon under current pump prices, the vote failed, 77-64, with 77 majority members voting to keep the full tax, effectively blocking short-term relief for motorists and families throughout New York.

Thanks in part to public pressure, the Assembly minority press conferences and a grass-roots push from motorists across the state, a tentative, bipartisan agreement to cap the state sales tax on gasoline at $2 per gallon has been reached.

Capping the state gas tax is good news for New Yorkers. However, more needs to be done. That’s why I, along with my Assembly minority colleagues, propose establishment of an Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund. The fund, expected to total $265 million annually, would be financed with state sales tax revenue from the second dollar of gas purchases. The money would be used for research, development and use of alternative and renewable energy fuels, as well as grants and incentives for the distribution and use of alternative fuels.

I know summer is a time when people like to travel and go on vacations. Hopefully, rising gas prices will not hinder these desires. I am optimistic we will see some relief from the state Legislature before the end of summer. I assure you I will continue working for lower gas prices, and the necessary research and development of alternative fuel sources to prevent future gas cost spikes.