Skelos And Leading Environmental Groups Urge Action On Legislation Encourage Purchase Of Hybrid And Other Fuel Efficient Vehicles

Dean G. Skelos

July 12, 2007

New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and representatives from leading state environmental advocacy organizations today urged the State Assembly to pass legislation that would provide a sales tax exemption for hybrid, fuel cell and other fuel efficient vehicles.

"This legislation is an important first step toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil and protecting our environment," said Senator Skelos. "By making hybrid vehicles more cost-effective and promoting the use of other gas conscious cars, we will begin dramatically reducing gasoline consumption, easing the burden that higher fuel costs impose on household budgets, reducing air pollution and addressing global climate change. When the State Assembly returns to work in Albany, passing this important legislation must be at the top of their priority list."

As sponsored by Senator Skelos and unanimously passed by the State Senate, S.3947-A eliminates the assessment of the state sales tax on the purchase of new and used hybrid and fuel cell powered vehicles. In addition, the sale of new and used vehicles from Model Year 2008 and beyond that achieve a highway fuel economy estimate of 35 miles per gallon or more, as certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, would be exempt from state sales tax. The legislation also enables New York City and county governments to eliminate their local sales tax on hybrid and high mile-per-gallon vehicles.

As an example of the environmental benefits of hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Camry hybrid uses approximately 29% less gasoline than the non-hybrid version. At 14,000 miles driven per year, the hybrid owner would save roughly $425 in additional fuel costs. As noted by Consumer Reports, however, even the "most cost-effective models require an investment of about five years for the owner to break even." This legislation will reduce this cost recovery period.

"Senator Skelos and the New York State Senate are to be commended for taking this important step to provide New York residents with an incentive to reduce their personal carbon footprints, and reduce their use of fossil fuels by promoting the use of efficient vehicles," said Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York. "Overwhelming public support has been growing for this legislation, and we urge the Assembly to move quickly so that residents will not delay their purchase of hybrid or high efficiency vehicles."

"By exempting hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles from the state sales tax, this bill makes it easier for New Yorkers to take action in the fight against climate change," said Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "We are proud to support Senator Skelos’ important legislation, and we urge the Assembly to do its part to make less-polluting vehicles become the norm, rather than the exception."

"Enactment of this legislation would have direct impact on working class New Yorkers, our environment and our quality of life," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "This is one more important step toward enabling working class New Yorkers to invest in hybrid technology, when you add this to being able to use the HOV lane and park for free at number of areas around Long Island, it becomes a necessity."

"This bill empowers consumers to make the best choice at the car dealership," said Richard Schrader, New York Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Providing an incentive for hybrid and other high-efficiency vehicles allows New Yorkers—of all economic backgrounds—to afford cars that will reduce global warming emissions and save them money at the gas pump. If this measure passes, New York State will once again demonstrate its leadership in addressing global warming with real everyday solutions."

"The Sierra Club applauds the efforts of Senator Skelos to promote fuel efficient vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Theresa Cassiack, Legislative Associate for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "With all of the hot air that can come out of Albany, this legislation will help cool the climate, and that's a good thing."

The state tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles expired in 2005. The federal government provided a personal income tax deduction of up to $2,000 for hybrid vehicles purchased in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, the federal tax deduction converted to a tax credit the amount of which depends on the make and model of the vehicle and the date on which it was purchased. Because this credit phases out as more vehicles are purchased, a state sales tax exemption is even more necessary to reduce the cost recovery period. Sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) in the State Assembly, this sales tax exemption legislation has not been brought to the floor for a vote.

At today’s press conference, Senator Skelos also urged the Assembly to pass legislation promoting the availability of ethanol and biodiesel to New York State motorists. As authored by Senator Skelos and unanimously passed by the State Senate, S.6160-A establishes a 25% refundable tax credit for the installation of tanks, piping and other infrastructure fuel distributors need to accommodate biofuels, such as E85 (ethanol) and B20 (biodiesel).

Despite the dramatic increase in the sales of vehicles that operate on both biofuel and traditional gasoline (five million nationwide), E85 and B20 are generally unavailable to the public in New York State (only three retail gas stations sell E85 statewide). Almost all motor fuel sold in New York State is processed by 90 regional distributors. At present, not one of these 90 distributors is equipped with the infrastructure (piping, tanks, etc.) needed to handle biofuels. This legislation creates a financial incentive for these distributors to install this equipment and it will help establish a true market for alternative fuels in New York State. The cost to install the necessary tanks, piping, etc. ranges from $150,000 to $500,000 for each distributor.

By promoting the widespread retail availability of biofuels, Senator Skelos’ legislation will (1) improve air quality and combat global climate change, (2) ease our dependence on foreign oil, (3) strengthen the state’s economy and (4) use market pressure to lower retail gas prices.

"By expanding the availability of biofuels, like ethanol and biodiesel, in New York State, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and link Downstate demand with production at Upstate facilities to bolster the state’s economy," said Senator Skelos. "Industry experts have concluded that rising global demand has pushed gas prices to record highs. By expanding the availability of ethanol and biodiesel at retail gas stations, we will increase the overall supply of motor fuel and provide a real choice for motorists."