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Queens Chronicle

Avella calls for new city fuel tax math

State sen. proposes flat per-gallon rate over current percentage

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:58 am, Thu Mar 14, 2013.

Before you lament your next fill-up at the gas station, stop a moment to do the math. Of the now-$3.95 average you pay at the pump for regular, 18.4 cents per gallon goes towards the federal gas tax, another 8 cents per gallon for the state and a fraction of a penny for the MTA district sales tax. But the city collects a percentage of the overall price.

The disparity in the excises has prompted state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) to call for a reform of the local gas tax’s math, calling for a flat cent-to-gallon ratio, rather than the 4 percent rate that increases the consumer’s payout alongside the price of gas.

“As we all cry out in pain over the rapid increase of gas prices the past few months, the city is quietly sitting back and collecting an unfair and undeserved surge in revenue,” Avella said. “With gas prices constantly fluctuating, it is important that motorists have protections in place at the pump.”

Avella has offered up legislation in Albany that would require the city to switch to a flat rate on the gallon. It currently has four co-sponsors in the Senate, but no co-sponsors in the opposite house, though freshman Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) was suggested as a possible co-sponsor.

The lawmaker was noncommittal about the ideal tax per gallon at the city level, but suggested the state’s rate could be a starting point. He posited the tax was taking a toll not only on consumers, but also gas station owners who he said are struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis.

Avella said no home rule decision from the City Council would need to be invoked in order to have the legislation take effect, even though it involved local policy being regulated at a state level, instead suggesting the city and state can collaborate on the measure.

When asked if he was comfortable allowing the mayor to set a flat rate at a reasonable level, the legislator said, “That’s a good point. But let’s get this law passed first and then if they set the rate too high, we can deal with that.

“The city is receiving undeserved windfall tax revenue at the expense of its commuters,” he added.

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