Thiele Works To Cut Gasoline Prices On Long Island

A Column from the Desk of Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (R, I, C – Sag Harbor)
March 3, 2008
Although Governor Spitzer stated that he was not raising taxes this year, he has now decided to raise the state tax on gasoline. An advocate for reducing the tax burden on New Yorkers all across our state, I have been especially concerned about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline, which in some areas has risen to a national high of over $4 per gallon. With families pinching every penny, it is outrageous that the Governor would consider raising taxes, especially on necessities like motor fuel. Yet, the Governor is lifting the cap on the state gasoline tax, a measure that I fought hard to enact in 2006. The Governor’s plan is expected to raise taxes on New Yorkers by $13.2 million this year and nearly $60 million in 2009.

As a longstanding member of the Assembly Transportation Committee as well as the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the state budgetary process, I have a comprehensive plan that would cut taxes on New York State motorists and help alleviate the burden on our hard-working, tax-paying families, especially on Long Island’s East End, where a monopoly on motor fuel has manipulated year-round residents for far too long. In fact, current Southfork gasoline prices are about 25 cents higher than any other price on Long Island.

The first part of my plan involves stopping the monopoly in its tracks. My legislation, Assembly Bills A.2641 and A.0386, would prohibit “zone pricing” on motor fuels and open up a wholesale gasoline market to create greater competition among retailers, respectively. We all know that competition in business is a good thing for the consumer and, should this bill become enacted, it would pass along cost savings directly to the year-round East End residents who have been forced to pay excessively high gasoline costs, even after the tourists leave town. Fuel prices should be set by cost, not by competition.

Next, we must address the state’s out-of-control ability to raise taxes, such as the Governor’s current proposal to raise the gasoline tax cap. That is why I am proud to stand behind legislation that would merge the state’s current seven taxes on gasoline into one tax, saving taxpayers 10 percent on the new combined tax, as well as reducing the Petroleum Business Tax and the State Sales Tax on qualified motor fuel and diesel motor fuel by half their current rates. Combined, these proposals would save New Yorkers $990 million in gasoline taxes each year!

Finally, we must look at the long-term motor fuel market. Economists and scientists alike agree that our supply of gasoline and crude oil is in short supply so we must plan and begin preparations now for our state’s future. This is the reasoning behind my legislation to provide tax credits and exemptions for consumers who purchase fuel-efficient, zero-emissions, or alternative fuel or flex-fuel vehicles. Specifically, this bill exempts the entire sales and compensating use tax on the vehicle as well as providing other tax incentives to promote energy conservation. I am also sponsoring legislation that would promote the creation, production and usage of alternative fuels, such as E-85 ethanol. Not only will this measure help create new and long-lasting jobs for New Yorkers, but it will provide our motorists with a reliable source of motor fuel at a fraction of the current cost of gasoline.

The fact is that our state’s dependency on gasoline and diesel fuels is a complex issue that deserves a complex solution. Across the nation, motorists are feeling the rising costs on gasoline and adjusting their budgets. However, there is no place like New York where gasoline prices are so out of control. Our state is leading the Northeast as the most expensive place to purchase motor fuel, and, on top of this, Long Island’s East End also has the most expensive prices in our state. Raising the costs further, like the Governor plans to do, is not the right choice. My plan will cut costs permanently in order to ensure our state drives into a greener, more affordable future. I urge the Governor to consider my plan and strongly suggest that he reconsider his ill-advised plan to raise the gasoline tax.