2008-05-09 / Top Stories

Smith Supports Elimination Of Summer Gas Tax

Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith has announced his support for a controversial bill to eliminate the gasoline tax as prices at the pump hit a record $4 per gallon in some parts of the state. Smith said that while the legislation was "not perfect, any relief we can provide for families was important."

"The high gasoline costs continue to affect all New Yorkers," said Senator Smith. "The bill being proposed is truly bigger than your typical partisan politics. I support this bill, which sends a message to my constituents that Albany understands their concerns, but I have some serious concerns with the bill, especially the lack of transparency."

The bill (S7594-B) would save New Yorkers 32 cent per gallon and eliminate the New York State taxes on gasoline from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Smith said that the bill passed with a vote of 48 to 15, did not have mechanisms to ensure consumers would reap the benefits of the state tax suspension.

Senator Smith challenged the majority's proposed legislation as being fiscally irresponsible. Implementing this bill would cause the state to incur an additional $500 million deficit. Still, Senator Smith said that he understood that families and small business owners needed help during these tough fiscal times.

"Gas tax relief sounds good at face value, but the reality is we will have to find a way to pay for it," Smith said. "We are looking at ways that we can provide relief for consumers but also keep the state's finances on track. While the budget is balanced this year, budget projects the next fiscal year show a multi-billion deficit. That is something we all must keep in mind."

The legislation passed included an anti-price gouging clause similar to the failed cap issued in 2006. Smith said that his conference was split down the middle over the issue of whether to support the controversial tax.

Senate Energy & Telecom Committee Ranking Member, Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn), said: "The proposed gas tax relief plan is short-sighted and ultimately won't work. The money intended for state highway infrastructures to pay for roadwork, bridge construction, repairs and maintenance jobs would suffer. Instead, we ought to encourage alternative energy vehicles and use of public transportation."

Smith said loss of state revenues and the lack of anti-price gouging language in the legislation were just some of the concerns. He added that past studies on gasoline rebates have shown they do not benefit the state and/or consumers.

"I do support this bill, but it's unfortunate that Senators on both sides of the aisle were not asked for their input on this legislation- another example of the lack of transparency in Albany," said Senator Stachowski. That being said, I'm hopeful that my constituents do in fact realize the significant savings at the pump that this legislation promises, because they certainly need it."

The recently passed Senate bill will likely be a one-house bill since the Assembly has already signaled it would not support the plan.

Senator Smith concluded: "In the perfect world, the Democratic Conference would have had the opportunity to submit healthy energy alternatives to address the rising gasoline costs, however, the majority has instead decided to pass a bill that directly addresses the concerns of their respective districts. This issue of equal concern should have been a catalyst for reform."

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