ALBANY, N.Y. (WUTR) — State Sen. Joseph Griffo—who represents Rome, New York—expressed his opposition to what state Republicans are calling a “gas tax” included in a green energy bill that’s in committee at the Legislature. Advanced by the Senate Majority, the bill would invest in renewable resources while increasing taxes on fossil fuels and pollutants like gasoline, potentially increasing heating and driving expenses dramatically.
Members of the Senate Minority say the proposal—Senate Bill S4264A—could ultimately lead to gas prices rising by as much as 55 cents per gallon and home heating costs increasing by more than 25%.
“While we must continue to take action to protect our environment, evidence has shown that New York’s emissions have fallen by as much as 95% since 1990,” Sen. Griffo said. “We can continue on this trajectory to reduce our carbon footprint but must remain mindful of the effect that proposals such as this will have on the many New Yorkers who use a vehicle every day and who will be severely punished by this new ‘gas tax.’ This will make it even more expensive to commute to work, bring your children to school, take your family out for a day trip and keep your house warm on a cold night. We should be focused on making New York more affordable and stopping the exodus of people, families and businesses from our state and not making it more difficult for New Yorkers to live and do business here.”
Republicans like Griffo calculate that passing the legislation could raise New York’s tax to 98.12 cents per gallon, an increase of more than 127% that would make New York’s gas tax more than 57% higher than any other state.
Senate Democrats take a different view of the bill. “I am proud to sponsor this legislation,” says Sen. Kevin Parker, the bill’s sponsor. “The legislation provides climate justice for Black, Latinx and low-income New Yorkers,who have often faced the brunt climate pollution. And, as we begin to emerge from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19, the CCIA will provide good, green jobs that will serve as a catalysis for our economic recovery.”
The law requires the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050. It imposes a fee of $55 per ton of greenhouse gas emitted by polluters—creating an estimated $150 billion in revenue over ten years—in order to fund renewable technology, infrastructure, transportation, and energy.
The bill also provides job training, with a preference for young and displaced workers, the long term unemployed, and those from marginalized backgrounds. It also includes grants for disadvantaged communities transitioning to sustainable energy, especially locally-, minority-, and women-owned businesses and groups.
Environmental activists are in favor of the legislation, as well. “As we move our economy off of fossil fuels, the Climate and Community Investment Act will make sure we advance in a way that finally puts people before polluters while unleashing tremendous new economic opportunities for all New Yorkers,” said Conor Bambrick, the Director of Climate Policy at Environmental Advocates NY.
According to the Tax Foundation, New York currently has the seventh-highest gas tax in the country, at 43.12 cents per gallon. California currently has the highest, at 62.47 cents per gallon.