Assembly Minority Pushes Plan for Gas Tax Cap, Alternative Fuels

Assemblyman Joe Giglio (R-Gowanda) was joined today by his Assembly minority colleagues to introduce a new two-part plan to ease the burden of escalating fuel and energy costs. In it, the Assembly minority renews its call for a gasoline sales tax cap for any amount above $2.00 per gallon and introduces the “Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund” to promote the research, development, and use of alternative energy such as ethanol and bio-diesel.

On April 11, an amendment to provide a sales tax exemption on motor and diesel fuel costing over $2.00 per gallon was defeated 77-64, with 77 majority members voting to defeat it. The minority says they will force another vote for the cap which will save motorists about $.10 per gallon.

“The price of gas is hurting our working families, businesses, and farms,” said Giglio. “In my district, if people need to get somewhere, they use their car, we have no mass transit system. It is our responsibility to help these people ease the pain they are feeling at the pump.”

New Yorkers are paying $.65 for seven different taxes per gallon of gasoline, the highest rate in the Northeast. New York state is one of only a handful of states to subject gasoline to sales tax. The sales tax is the only tax that is pegged to the price of gas, meaning that as motorists struggle to pay higher fuel costs, the state reaps a windfall.

Giglio believes the windfall the state is bringing in should be returned to motorists. “That money is not the state’s,” he said. “That money should be put back into the pockets of the motorists who are paying the sales tax on gasoline.”

The Assembly minority also proposed accelerating the state’s transition away from a fossil fuel transportation economy to one that is more reliant on alternative and renewable energy sources, a move that will lower fuel costs by lessening the demand for gasoline. Republicans are proposing to place the state sales tax revenue generated from the second dollar of gas into the Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund. It is estimated that the proposal would generate $265 million annually to 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.

Part of the long-term success of the program is dependant on farms to grow the crops necessary to produce ethanol and bio-diesel. “Right now, our farmers are getting squeezed,” said Giglio. “We need them to be operating at full strength during the transition to ethanol. If the price of fuel today drives them out of business, where will we be tomorrow when we need their expertise and skills to grow the crops?”

The New York Farm Bureau expressed its support for the program. Jeff Williams, its legislative director, said the organization is committed to helping develop new cost effective renewable energy sources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. “New York State Farmers can and will grow the crops to produce ethanol and bio-diesel, which will help meet our energy needs for the future.”

The Alternative Fuel Incentive fund also includes tax credits of $500 per hybrid or “flex-fuel” vehicle purchased. To increase fuelling stations for alternative fuels, the program also dedicates $90 million to fund an allocated credit for the installation or conversion of fuelling stations for alternative fuels.

“The people of the Southern Tier need relief from these out of control prices,” said Giglio. “Tax relief is a good short-term solution to the problem but it’s not a long-term one. That is why our conference has introduced this plan to offer New Yorkers alternatives to the way we heat our homes and fuel our cars so that in the future, we can end our reliance on foreign oil.”