The price of a gallon of gas has passed the $4 mark for the first time since 2008, and the extra cash that drivers now have to pony up at the pump threatens the fragile recovery of the economy, as consumers spend less on everything else. Gas prices also threaten to put a damper on New Yorkers' summer vacation plans.
Enter Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) who, along with Albany-area Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, has proposed four-day "gas tax holidays" over the Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day weekends. Their bill would suspend three taxes, totalling 33 cents per gallon, and, they say, save drivers a total of $19 million this summer, or an average of $5 or $6 off a tank of gas.
"Governments should not smile and watch their government coffers grow as taxpayer misery skyrockets with ever increasing gas prices," Ball said. "Let's help people to enjoy their time off with their families, while giving our local economy a boost.”
The idea may be novel, but fighting high gas prices is nothing new. In 2006, when costs hit $3 per gallon, the state capped its sales taxes on gas at 8 percent. But according to a recent report by the Albany Times Union newspaper, the move saved drivers nothing. One official speculated that gas stations just pocketed the difference.
Also at issue is the state's tenuous financial situation, and whether New York can afford to give drivers a break. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday told reporters that he couldn't back the gas tax holiday until lawmakers figured out how to pay for it. Ball and Tedisco have not said how they would make up the difference.
"There’s a lot of things that are nice ideas and would be good to do, a lot of taxes I would like to make go away. The question is, can you afford it," Cuomo said. “Gas tax holiday? How about an income tax holiday? How about a property tax holiday?”
In 2008, a similar proposal was defeated by the Democrat-dominated Assembly. Speaker Sheldon Silver has not commented on the current proposal.
Meanwhile, some industry officials are fighting the proposal. Revenue from the three taxes that Ball and Tedisco want to suspend is directed into a fund used to repair state-owned highways and bridges. In recent years, that fund has been raided to pay for other things, such as highway snow removal.
In a letter to Ball and Tedisco, Michael Elmendorf, the president of Associated General Contractors of New York, said that the scant savings that result from the gas tax holiday would be outweighed by the negative impact on road repairs.
"Bad roads and failing bridges impose much higher costs than a few cents a gallon, and are certainly no roadmap for economic recovery, either," he wrote. "We are not convinced that temporarily reducing these taxes would even translate to savings at the pump."
And many local residents aren't convinced, either.
"I don't see how five bucks off gas is going to change someone's mind about going on vacation," said James MacAlvey of Hastings, adding "doing it over a holiday, you're just going to have hundreds of people lined up at the gas station."
Here's a look at what our local lawmakers were up to between April 22 and April 29. As you can see, it was a slow week at the Capitol as lawmakers were (still) on vacation. May and June promise to be more exciting, with lawmakers grappling with :
Castelli on April 27 joined a handful of Westchester County officials, including District Attorney Janet DiFiore, to release a report that shows a link between early education programs for small children and crime prevention. According to the report, strong early education gives at-risk kids more options, increasing their chances of succeeding and staying off a law-breaking path. Castelli, a retired state trooper, has spoken out against cuts in state spending on early intervention programs for children with learning disabilities.
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) did not introduce any bills.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) did not introduce any bills.
Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown) did not introduce any bills.
Katz on April 26 hosted a "Focus on Jobs" summit with local business leaders to discuss strategies for helping new businesses open and existing businesses expand. “Simply put, there are too many taxes, fees and too much red tape inhibiting our ability to create and keep jobs," , which was held at the John C. Hart Library in Yorktown.
The freshman on April 28 hosted a town-hall meeting at Somers Town Hall.
Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Rye) did not introduce any bills.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) introduced one bill, which would designate veterans' memorials as state parkland and afford them various protections, including a prohibiton on destroying or altering the properties.
Paulin on April 28 joined Scarsdale Mayor Miriam Flisser, School Board President Jill Spieler and Al DelBello, a former lieutenant governor, Westchester County executive and mayor of Yonkers for of a proposal by Gov. Cuomo to cap annual property tax increases.
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) introduced two bills, including a proposal to ban the sale of synthetic cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of marijuana when smoked. One such product, "Atomic Bomb," recently put .
Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) introduced two bills, including a proposal that would increase penalties for crimes related to the abuse of public office, and would bar a lawmaker from doling out state grants to organizations in which he or she is an officer. The bill also bars the grants, known as member items, from being given to organizations whose officers have been convicted of crimes related to the organization.
The senator also wants the state to require that sex offenders be identified as such on their driver's licenses. 4860
Ball last week joined with Albany-area Assemblyman Jim Tedisco in calling for four-day "gas tax holidays" during Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day weekends. The proposal would roll back three state gas taxes - totaling 33 cents per gallon, in a bid to boost tourism. Ball and Tedisco said the holiday would cost the state $19 million, and have not said how they would make up that revenue. Gov. Cuomo last week refused to take a position, saying he would "look at the numbers."
Ball on April 27 to call for the end of the "horrific" MTA payroll tax, which costs employers 34 cents for every $100 of payroll. Ball is pushing a bill that would exempt self-employed people, non-profits, local governments and school districts from the tax. Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties have signed on to a lawsuit against the MTA, which claims that the tax is unconstitutional because it only affects certain counties.
Ball is asking residents of the 40th district, which stretches from northern Westchester into Dutchess County, to answer a 15-question survey that touches on everything from pension reform to a proposed tax on wealthy New Yorkers.
Sen. David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) introduced six bills, one of which would require that surveillance cameras be installed at the entrances and exits of all facilities, including group homes, operated by the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Carlucci said the bill was sparked by the 2009 rape of Paula Liblick, a 61-year-old woman who lived at a group home in Orange County. The assailant has never been caught, and Carlucci cites the absence of video cameras as a reason. Liblick passed away on April 28. Her death was not related to the sexual assault.
Carlucci also wants business owners to be able to apply for permits electronically. His bill would allow the state to accept background information, including criminal history and fingerprints, electronically and would allow business owners to sign applications online.
Another bill would require state agencies to consider a "cure period" that would allow businesses found to be in violation of the law to take steps to correct the problem before being fined.
A bill championed by Carlucci, which would alter driver's license applications to include a yes/no question about organ donation, is meeting with contention from a local business group. In , Rockland Business Association board member and said that while the bill, known as "Lauren's Law," is well-intentioned, it impedes on privacy rights. The bill has already passed the Senate and is being worked through the Assembly.
Carlucci on May 6 will host a viewing of Gasland, a documentary about the alleged perils of "hydrofracking," a controversial natural gas drilling method. The issue has become a flashpoint in the state's Southern Tier, which rests atop a massive natural gas formation called the Marcellus Shale. Much of New York City's and the Hudson Valley's drinking water comes from area atop the shale. The viewing will be at the Albert Wisner Library on MacFarland Avenue in Warwick, Orange County.
The freshman senator on April 30 held mobile office hours at the Shop Rite on Holt Drive in Stony Point.
Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Port Chester) did not introduce any bills.
Oppenheimer on April 29 signed on to an annual advocacy event that seeks to raise awareness of the impact of racism. The day-long event, called Stand Against Racism, is sponsored by the YWCA and included talks and a book signing by Sana Butler, whose book "Sugar of the Crop" details an attempt to track down the descendants of slaves.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) did not introduce any bills.
The senator last weeked hosted a program at the Schlobohm Houses in Yonkers aimed at raising awareness of healthy eating and exercise among low-income children. The program, known as Just About Me or JAM, is a series that focuses on various issues faced by residents of public housing.