2005-09-14 / Features

Fuel Crisis Proposals From All Government Levels

by john toscano

Congressmembers Steve Israel, l., and Joeseph Crowley, c., offer answer on gas prices.
Congressmembers Steve Israel, l., and Joeseph Crowley, c., offer answer on gas prices. From Washington to Albany and City Hall last week the cries from motorists and homeowners for relief from sky-high oil prices and gouging continued.

Amid the clamor, there were murmurs that prices might begin to recede shortly as market forces started taking effect.

But fears were also expressed that home heating fuel costs could stay high this winter, bringing calls for relief for seniors and homeowners.

From Washington, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) proposed a federal income tax credit of $500 for gasoline and $500 for home heating oil, natural gas and kerosene for anyone earning $80,000 a year or less.

In Albany, state Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose) said the senate would meet in Albany this Monday to address the staggering fuel costs crisis by immediately rolling back gas sales taxes and implementing a plan to provide winter heating relief for fixed-income seniors.

State Senator Serphin Maltese (R–C, Middle Village) is also backing that plan.

Also in Albany, Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette (D–Jackson Heights) said a bill he sponsored into law about seven years ago “prohibits price gouging by any party within the chain of distribution of consumer goods (including oil and gas) including manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers.”

There are plenty of targets who may be worsening the gas shortage by manipulating prices, that the state attorney general can go after, Lafayette said.

Also in Albany, Assemblymember Mark Weprin (D–Bayside) urged Governor George Pataki to take swift and immediate action under the State Energy Law to declare a statewide fuel emergency, which would protect consumers by halting unwarranted price increases.

However, there has been no indication that any action has been planned by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, without whom no Assembly action is taken.

In the City Council, Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing), chairman of the Transportation Committee, called on the Bloomberg mayoral administration and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to significantly increase bus service to help New Yorkers to wean themselves from their cars.

Liu noted that motorists have seen a surge in gasoline prices approaching $4 per gallon since Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast states.

Previously, Liu and Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Ozone Park) proposed prohibiting gas stations from increasing prices more than once in a 24-hour period as a way of preventing price gouging.

Also Council Speaker Gifford Miller had announced support of a resolution introduced by Councilmembers Tony Avella (D–Bayside) and David Weprin (D–Hollis) which asks the state to set a flat per-gallon sales tax on gas rather than the percentage rate currently charged. The flat rate would cost motorists less money, they noted.

Under Crowley’s plan, tax credits for oil use would be funded by a one percent reduction in tax credits for the largest oil companies.

He noted that the federal Energy Department is expecting heating oil prices to rise by 31 percent this winter, nearly double the 16 percent increase forecast last month.

Among the proposals the state senate is considering, Padavan said, is creating a HEAP program in New York state modeled after the federal program which grants funds to seniors to help them meet heating costs. The senate also wants the federal government to increase HEAP grants.

“We need immediate relief and that’s why the senate has planned to convene, so we may pass measures that will help deliver relief to all New Yorkers, “ Padavan said.

The main action planned by the senate is the rollback of the sales tax on gasoline, he added.

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