Jolly green senator
In the halls of the State Legislature, friends have a
playful new nickname for Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the deputy
majority leader: Green Dean. The reason is the Senate's passage of a bill that
would give a sales-tax break to people who buy hybrids and other high-mileage
cars. It's a good idea. Now, as long as Skelos is in a green frame of mind,
there's some other legislation he should consider.
But first, some details on Skelos' hybrid bill. Hybrids cost more than
comparable conventional cars. So it takes time for the savings on fuel costs to
make up for the higher price. If the Assembly gets over its concerns about
lost revenue and passes the bill, and Gov. Eliot Spitzer signs it, the state
would give up its right to collect sales tax on new or used hybrids; it would
also forgo taxes on nonhybrid 2008 cars that get over 35 miles per gallon, and
it would let local governments offer the same deal. That would cut payback time
for consumers and nudge people to buy green.
Actually, the more effective approach would be to increase the fuel
efficiency of all American cars. Congress can do that in the near future, as it
debates energy legislation. The automakers are trying to kill real change, but
they have no case. The Model T Ford a century ago got better mileage than a
lot of today's cars, but the technology is available to get 50-plus miles a
gallon. Congress must act now.
Back in Albany, Green Dean and his Senate colleagues have a chance to pass
other environmental initiatives. One is an expanded bottle bill, to reduce the
litter caused by water, tea and juice containers. Those aren't covered by the
original 1982 bill, which sharply reduced litter and kept 6 million tons of
recyclables out of landfills.
Bills sponsored by Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb.
Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) would also capture for the state $100 million or
more in unclaimed deposits that the beverage industry now gets to keep. The
money would augment the Environmental Protection Fund, which can help save open
would broaden the containers covered, but would not give the money to the
state. We prefer the LaValle-Sweeney approach.