With gas prices well above $3 per gallon and rising, Assembly minority members James Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga) and Pete Lopez (R,C,I-Schoharie) today proposed a three-point plan to offer short-term and long-term relief for motorists. The plan would cut gas taxes, promote alternative fuels and vehicles and fast-track the availability of ethanol fuel (E-85) at the 27 Thruway Service Stations across the state.
There are currently seven taxes on a gallon of gasoline. The federal tax rate is 18.4 cents and the state taxes account for 33 cents (local taxes are approximately 11 cents). This is much higher than neighboring states. The Assembly minority proposes reducing gas taxes to the point where they will be in line with the average northeast state tax rate. This would save motorists 12.5 cents per gallon right off the bat. Dedicated highway, bridge and transportation funds would be held harmless and be funded by the general fund.
They also call for using the remaining sales tax revenue on gasoline to create the “Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund.” The fund would provide tax credits, grants, investments and other incentives to encourage ownership of hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles and the building of alternative fueling stations and refineries to expand the availability of these fuels in New York State. The fund would also invest in research and development of alternative fuels – especially cellulosic ethanol which uses straw, grass, corn stalks and other plant waste, as opposed to more expensive corn-based or sugar-based ethanol.
Tedisco and Lopez said that accelerating the transition to alternative fuels would lower fuel costs through lessened demand for gasoline, as well as provide for a cleaner environment, more agricultural and manufacturing jobs with the production of the home-grown fuels, and greater national security through greater energy independence.
Lastly, the Assembly minority is calling for the 27 Thruway Service Stations to fast-track the installation of E-85 fuel pumps. Nearly one year ago, on July 13, 2006, the Thruway Authority broke ground on an E-85 pump at the New Baltimore Travel Plaza in Greene County. It was scheduled to be open to motorists on October 1st, 2006 with the other 26 stations soon to follow. However, none of them did follow and the New Baltimore station has the pump but it has no fuel and lies dormant.
There are nearly 200,000 vehicles in New York State that are flex-fuel vehicles (can accept gasoline or ethanol) and Tedisco and Lopez said these vehicles need the supply of E-85 and that they’re not pleased with the situation at the New Baltimore station. The current price of E-85 fuel at the Campus Mobil Station on Western Avenue in Albany (one of only two stations in the state with an E-85 pump) is $2.59 – 55-65 cents cheaper than regular gasoline.
“If half of the flex-fuel vehicles on the road today used E-85 half of the time, it would not only save those motorists about 60 cents per gallon, it would also lower gas prices for the rest due to decreased demand, not to mention all the other benefits. To promise accessibility of this fuel but then to drop the ball is inexcusable. These pumps need to be up and running at all 27 stations as soon as possible. No more delays,” said Tedisco.
"It is time that New York takes an aggressive approach in providing citizens with both short-term and long-term relief at the gas pumps," said Lopez. “Tax breaks for flex-fuel vehicles are a necessary step, but we need to make sure that the fuel is widely and readily available. The benefits of this transformation would be far- reaching and would affect our economy, our environment and our dependency on foreign oil. It is the 21st Century and it is time we started acting that way."