PRINTED ON MAY 18, 2006 IN NEWSDAY LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Boosting gas prices is not the answer
Newsday's editorial page recently criticized the state for working to provide tax relief at the gas pump. Newsday again repeated its call for higher gas prices to change drivers' behavior ["Gasonomics," Editorial, May 10].
But a policy of inflicting greater fiscal pain to force consumers to make smarter energy choices is the wrong approach. We need to offer friendly incentives to change behavior, especially when paychecks of hardworking Americans are already stretched thin to cover basic family expenses.
People need tax relief now and not a hard-learned lesson. And government has an obligation to respond. The state deserves credit for capping its sales tax on gasoline to provide some needed relief at the pump and for acting while others talk.
Furthermore, Suffolk and Nassau should join the state in capping its portion of gasoline taxes to provide Long Island motorists with an even greater benefit. Make no mistake, this is not a substitute for promoting energy efficiency, conservation and alternative energy sources. Government must continue working on delivering results in these important areas as well.
Besides capping gasoline taxes, consumers need programs that encourage them to make smarter energy choices through incentives. One example is New York State's Clean Pass Program, which allows low-emission, energy-efficient vehicles to use the HOV lane on the Long Island Expressway with no passenger restrictions. Another is the Senate majority's proposal to provide tax incentives for drivers who purchase hybrid vehicles.
Consumers deserve more "environmentally friendly" programs that extend a welcoming hand - not a slap on the wrist.
State Sen. John J. Flanagan