Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Grudging Praise

Despite my many criticisms of Governor George Pataki, and most of his policies and stances, sometimes I have to give credit where credit is due:
Pataki: Hybrid car owners to get tax break, perks

Associated Press Writer

January 16, 2006, 4:05 PM EST

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The rising number of buyers of hybrid and alternative fuel automobiles would get a tax break, a map of alternative fuel filling stations and access to some priority traffic lanes under Gov. George Pataki's proposed state budget.

The wide ranging energy proposals, including tax breaks for heating costs, will be part of Pataki 2006-07 budget proposal on Tuesday. They address his goals of cleaning New York's air while reducing dependence on "terror-promoting foreign oil."

The governor's budget proposal to the Legislature is scheduled to be delivered Tuesday, starting the usually contentious budget negotiations with legislative leaders.

The energy proposal he released Monday seeks to provide incentives for consumers to use cleaner fuels, as well as funding for research to make cleaner, lighter automobiles. It is Pataki's last budget to try to burnish environmental and fiscal conservative credentials nationwide as he considers a run for president in 2008. Several proposals encourage the use of ethanol, an agriculture-based fuel for automobiles that would appeal to farmers in New York and the key presidential primary state of Iowa. [....]

Pataki's proposal include:

_Renew the $2,000 personal income tax credit for buying a hybrid vehicle, which carries a higher costs than traditional models. It would cost the state about $5 million in lost revenue.

_10 percent discount in the E-Z Pass toll program for drivers of hybrid and other cars that get at least 45 miles per gallon and meet air quality standards.

_Allow vehicles that average at least 45 mpg and meet air quality standards to use often less congested car pool-only lanes in New York City and on the Long Island Expressway, even when not car pooling.

_Home heating tax credit for New Yorkers 65 years old and older with incomes up to $75,000. The tax credit could be up to $500.

_$50 million to help low-income families pay energy bills.

_A $500 tax credit for replacement or renovation of old home heating systems.

_Two sales tax-free weeks for the purchase of appliances and air conditions that carry the Energy Star tag showing they are energy efficient.

_Ending state taxes on renewable fuels while creating more filling stations for ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels. This could make alternative fuels cheaper at the pump than gasoline. Renewable fuels would be offered at all 27 state Thruway travel plazas and the state would send maps of alternative fuel stations to owners of those vehicles.

_$20 million would be used to promote "cellulosic" ethanol made from paper mill waste, grasses and shrubs to lead to the construction of an ethanol manufacturing plant.

_Construction of an alternative fuel research lab in Saratoga County's town of Malta technology and energy park. It would do research on fuels, batteries and pollution control technologies. Another $10 million program would support research to make lighter vehicles and a $5 million program would research hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

_$10 million in competitive grants to companies to develop flex-fuel hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies.

_Companies that use clean energy will get tax breaks similar to those offered in geographic Empire Zones, regardless of where the clean company is located.
But, as one hand giveth, the other taketh away:
The package of energy-related bills would also provide home heating tax credits and encourage development of so-called clean coal-burning plants.
Right. The puppies what been spewing mercury into our atmosphere and poisoning our food chain, right into the pelagic fish like salmon and tuna.

More bad news on the budget front:
Gov. George Pataki proposed a $110.7 billion state budget plan Tuesday that would reduce property, income and business taxes by $3.2 billion even while pumping up spending on education and energy independence.

The New York Republican, proposing his last state budget while eyeing a run for the White House in 2008, would increase spending by 4.1 percent, a rate above inflation, while closing what he called a modest $700 million budget gap. The budget also calls for several tax incentives to lure and enhance business in New York.
Let's do some quick math here: Pataki proposes a 3% tax cut across the board, and a 4.1% increase in spending in a state that is already running an operating deficit.

So let's be charitable and say that 4.1% is on equal dollar footing with the 3% cut in taxes, making the budgeted shortfall over 7%.

Now, economic growth of 3% over inflation is considered healthy but inflation continues to stubbornly refuse to cooperate by remaining flat in New York State. So let's be charitable and say it prices will rise by 2%. That means about a 2% shortfall in the budget, or about $22 million dollars, on top of the already in-place $700 million.

And that's before any emergency spending is taken into account and you know damned well something will pop up. In fact, with all the rain we've had already this month, we can expect at least one disaster in the coming weeks.

Do Republicans ever learn? The definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing that doesn't work, over and over again. While New York is a heavily taxed state at all levels, perhaps Pataki should be pushing for money from the other end (e.g. the Bush administration).

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