Mixed Messages From Critic of NY Gas Tax Holiday

Following the lead of John McCain and Hillary Clinton, the State Senate voted yesterday to suspend New York’s gas tax for the summer. The move was largely symbolic, as the governor and Assembly speaker have both indicated they won’t support the bill.

Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, immediately issued a statement condemning the measure:

S.7594-B, introduced by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), would exempt gasoline and diesel from the State’s excise tax, Sales Tax, and Petroleum Business Tax, from May 23, 2008 to September 2, 2008.  These taxes are currently used to provide funds for highways, roads, bridges, and mass transit.  By suspending the taxes the Senate Republicans will create an estimated $600 million budget gap for these necessary services.

"This bill is obviously meant to prey on the desperate need for relief of New York’s suffering drivers," said Senator Liz Krueger.  "In reality this bill will only worsen the economic crisis in New York, and at best result in little to none of the intended aid.  Increased demand will lead to higher prices and negate any positive effect the gas tax holiday was meant to have."

So far so good, but then Krueger serves up a cocktail of alternative policies meant to ease the burden on drivers. Even in relatively rail-rich New York, transit doesn’t enter the picture.

Among the ideas she floats, which were all proposed by Senate Democrats and rejected by Republicans:

Initiating a middle income gas and diesel fuel tax rebate program, which will give a $100 tax rebate to all New Yorkers, who earn $75,000 or less, that live in and have a vehicle registered in New York.

Instituting criminal penalties for price gouging and increasing fines of offenders to $25,000. 

But if the goal is to lower people’s transportation costs, why reward only car owners? How about packaging that relief in the form of incentives to take transit instead of driving? And why promote the idea that gas prices will go down if only those "price gougers" along the supply chain would stop taking advantage of innocent consumers?

While Krueger does mention conservation and reducing the gas consumption of the state’s vehicle fleet, encouraging non-government workers to drive less is noticeably absent from her proposals. As the summer driving season gets underway, will any politician outside the second smallest state in the union have the guts to talk about mode switch?

  • J. Mork

    Rhode Island is smaller than Delaware.

    But, yeah, you’re right — how about a tax refund for people who don’t own any car, and therefore aren’t contributing to the problem?

  • Ben Fried

    thanks J. Mork – amended.

  • Right, forget about saving people money at the pump when you can write a favored group (middle to low income motorists) a check and take credit for it. What about the price of milk or chicken or laundry detergent or any number of consumer necessities? When did gas become a “necessity” to folks who live in Kreuger’s district on the East Side of MANHATTAN?

  • d

    So, congestion pricing didn’t pass because it would hurt the pocketbooks of people who drove even though it would help the lives of people who didn’t.

    However, a gas tax holiday would less money in the state budget for road repairs, bridge repairs, and maintaining infrastructure directly related to driving. So, when more money is needed, the state would have to raise taxes on EVERYONE, including those who don’t drive, because millions, if not billions, will be gone from the state coffers if this passes.

    Where will politicians like Brodsky be when they have to raise state taxes to make up for this and when those taxes come out of the pocketbooks of people who don’t drive?

    Sorry, Albany, you can’t have it both ways.

  • It bears mention that Liz Krueger was a publicly commited advocate of congestion pricing, so she not a consistent panderer to motoring constituents like so many of her fellow legislators. The $75K income threshold for rebate eligility under her proposal would cut quite a few of her constituents out of the program.

    Ben, has any other member of the state legislature condemned the state gas tax holiday as Krueger has done?

  • Ben Fried

    BicyclesOnly — Similar statements haven’t come to our attention. Silver and Paterson seem to couch their opposition to the holiday in the argument that prices wouldn’t be affected that much:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2008/04/about-that-gas-tax-holiday.html

  • JF

    Krueger represents the Upper East Side. Why not take the money for that rebate and spend it on the Second Avenue Subway? That would do a lot more for her constituents’ commutes.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Senate Democrats feel it would be better to just send everyone $100. I agree, but I’d rather see the money go to transit – across the state:

    http://www.wgrz.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=57761&GID=lUqLxtQGsbDLCyZtl1lxuPr3x67qoTpb05G6+iHIInE%3D

    (via the Albany Project)

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