Albany- State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, 22nd District), today joined the New York State Senate in passing a comprehensive energy plan that would provide motorists with immediate relief from high gasoline prices and ease the impact of skyrocketing home heating costs on senior citizens this winter.
The centerpiece of the Senate energy plan is a cap on the State and local sales taxes on gasoline that would save consumers about $90 million through the rest of this year, and $400 million annually if gas prices remain near $3 per gallon and all localities participate. Also, the Senate is proposing to use the windfall in State sales tax collections, resulting from the increased sales taxes on higher priced gas, to provide rebate checks to senior citizens to help offset winter heating costs.
"The high cost of energy is having a major impact on our economy, hurting the bottom lines of small businesses, pinching the pocketbooks of families and threatening the ability of seniors to keep warm this winter," Senator Marty Golden said. "The Senate plan addresses the immediate need to lower gas prices as well as the looming crisis of high heating fuel costs .With our action, the Senate is providing relief and assistance and I hope the Assembly will support our energy plan."
The New York State Senate is also reviewing an energy plan submitted by Governor Pataki. The Senate also passed a resolution, asking the federal government to increase funding for the low income Home Energy Assistance Program, based on anticipated higher costs for home heating fuel this winter.
SALES TAX CAP ON GASOLINE
The Senate energy plan would cap the State and local sales tax on gasoline at a taxable value of $2 per gallon. The cap would save motorists an estimated $45 million through the rest of the year and $200 million annually in State sales taxes, if gas prices stay at about $3 per gallon. The cap covers the local sales tax on gas unless a local government votes to opt out of the cap. If all localities participate, the plan would generate another $200 million in savings.
In addition, the Senate passed legislation (S.5969), sponsored by Senator Carl Marcellino (R, Syosset) to prohibit gas station owners from raising the price of gas more than once a day.
The Senate's "Senior Heat" program would provide $200 rebate checks to eligible senior citizen homeowners to help offset the cost of home heating. Seniors approved for the enhanced STAR school property tax rebate program (at least 65 years old with an annual income of less than $64,650) would be eligible for the Senior Heat program.
The Senior Heat program legislation, sponsored by Senator Nicholas Spano (R-C-I-WF, Westchester), would also provide a $100 refundable State tax credit to eligible senior citizens who rent and pay for their heat.
The Senior Heat program would be primarily funded with revenues from the gas tax windfall, now projected at $42 million, but estimated to grow to $100 million or more by the end of the fiscal year. The program would provide an estimated $140 million in assistance to more than 640,000 senior homeowners and renters. (S.5965, Sen. Spano)
"Last week the Senate Investigations Committee held a hearing on the escalating costs of gas. One thing is clear, we need to heat our homes this winter and it has been reported that heating costs could skyrocket by as much as $350 per household," Senator Golden said. "This tax credit and rebate will help our seniors on a fixed income to stay warm this winter."
"This winter seniors on fixed incomes will face an impossible choice between staying warm and buying food and medicine," Senator Golden continued. "This program will help avert tragedy, and help hard-pressed seniors stay warm, by directing this unanticipated windfall to those who need it most."
In addition to soaring gas prices, the price for natural gas and heating oil has risen dramatically since last winter. According to NYSERDA, the average fuel oil price rose from $1.76 per gallon one year ago to $2.72 per gallon last week -- a 55 percent increase. New York homeowners consume an average 800 gallons of fuel oil each winter. Utilities are already projecting record increases in natural gas costs.
The bills were sent to the Assembly.