CARS HOMES JOBS

Take 2: Legislators' energy bills a waste of time

Friday, May 27, 2011
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Just when you think that it can’t get any better at the state Capitol, those rascals always pleasantly surprise me. This week, it was energy on the grill, and was I excited when I learned what our senators and Assembly members had in store for us.

On Tuesday, the Senate, where the Republicans have a one-vote stranglehold, approved one of those one-house bills for which the lawmakers are so famous. Were the Democrats in the Assembly to approve it as well, the bill would do away with state taxes on gasoline during three holiday weekend periods: Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day.

Even as the Senate Republicans were wasting paper and ink on this, Jimmy Tedisco, the GOP sponsor in the Assembly, was delivering the “snowball in Hades” prediction for his house. Can’t get enough of those one-house jobbers.

The next day, Senate Democrats amused us with what was called “a comprehensive energy savings plan to reduce the burden on cash-strapped energy consumers.”

“We share the pain of our constituents,” said Sen. Kevin Parker, the Democrats’ ranking member on the energy committee. No one even asked or prompted him to say that, but those of us who work in TV-land love sound bites like that to set the tone for the entire report.

And how can you not take notice when one of the energy bills being pushed by Democrats “prohibits more than one increase in the price of motor fuel in any 24-hour period.” No, you are not seeing things. I did not even ask Parker if you could double-up; you know, raise it 10 cents tomorrow, instead of 5 cents twice today. I did not want to hear the answer, out of fear that I might understand it.

Other provisions of the Democratic plan include tax credits for fuel cell technology, tax incentives for purchasing greener vehicles and — and this is my favorite — a 10 percent “Green E-Z Pass discount” on tolls in New York for motorists whose cars get better than 35 miles to the gallon. This makes absolutely fine sense. Wonderful use of fees to shape desired public policy.

There is just one teensy problem: the state Thruway Authority already has a “Green E-Z Pass discount” of 10 percent for vehicles that get better than 45 miles to the gallon, the federal standard.

Erin Billups of YNN told Parker about the Thruway’s already-green E-Z Passes, saying she had one.

This is Sen. Parker’s end of the conversation, minus the deer-in-headlights expression on his face: “You have a discount for … having a … I am [fairly long pause] … That’s something I am not familiar with.” The senator also seemed not familiar with the price tag on some of these incentives and credits and discounts he wants to grant tree-huggers.

A couple of times I asked him if he could give us a rough idea of the cost. First, he said it was “nominal,” then that he would get back to me that afternoon. I cannot say whether that happened because I do not know how to get voicemail on my cellphone.

But don’t get all worked up about cost because the Democratic energy-savers are probably all one-housers, just like the Republican gas tax holiday exemptions. Were the exemptions to pass, the state could lose $60 million. But the Assembly is controlled by Democrats from New York City, where no one owns a car. Think they care whether you can afford to drive your Chevy to the levee this summer?

By the way, please do not tell Parker about this column. He’s the guy who got three years’ probation for roughing up that news photographer from the New York Post.

 
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