Saratoga County

State leaders receive an earful

The state’s capital sounded more like Manhattan Thursday morning as an ensemble of horns blared. But
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The state’s capital sounded more like Manhattan Thursday morning as an ensemble of horns blared. But these weren’t cabbies laying on their horns in gridlock; they were truck drivers venting over high diesel fuel prices.

Over 130 trucks from as far as Michigan and Virginia descended on Albany in a boisterous rally outside the Capitol. They prodded lawmakers to do something to reel in diesel prices soaring in the $5-per-gallon range.

Two truck convoys — each stretching miles long — made their way to Albany from Fort Ann and Fultonville. After joining where the New York State Thruway meets the Adirondack Northway, they blared their horns as they slowly rolled into Albany, stopping near the east steps of the Capitol.

When the horns went silent, angry voices erupted.

“It’s killing us. The price is outrageous. Something’s gotta happen,” said Aaron Hill, a driver for Longhorn Trucking in Fort Plain. His semi-tractor trailer was among the row of trucks parked along Washington Avenue.

At the rally, attended by over 200 people, drivers called for an array of measures ranging from a gas tax holiday to lower highway tolls.

As of last Friday, the cost of a gallon of diesel in the Capital Region was $5.07, up 70.5 percent from $2.97 a year earlier, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

Barry Tybor’s blue semi was toward the head of the procession that rode down Washington Avenue. The National Transportation Brokers driver carried around diesel fuel receipts from earlier this month, ranging from $565 to $695.

Tybor, a 24-year trucker, primarily hauls paper products from Finch Pruyn in Glens Falls to Fultonville.

He said the higher fuel prices are making it harder for him to pay the mortgage on his Gloversville home.

“It’s like a roller coaster ride, and it’s getting worse,” Tybor said.

Scenes similar to the one in Albany have been appearing around the globe as $130-a-barrel crude oil pushes many businesses toward their breaking points.

The Albany rally was coordinated by Truckers and Citizens United, a group that heralds from the Harrisburg, Pa., area and with 52,000 members. Since being created in March, the group has held rallies in Harrisburg and Washington.

The Albany rally was mostly peaceful, aside from the noise. But the Truckers and Citizens United members did threaten more protests that would “shut down” Manhattan and Washington.

A popular proposed relief measure backed by the truckers was the gas tax holiday, which would eliminate the state’s 32.5-cent tax on each gallon of fuel.

The Republican-controlled Senate in May passed legislation for the holiday, but it has met roadblocks in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

“You’ve got to stay with it. You’ve got to get it done. This is a quality of life issue, not just for truckers,” Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said at the rally.

He was flanked by several other state Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Hugh Farley, Assemblyman George Amedore and Sen. James Tedisco.

Gov. David Paterson spoke at the rally and reiterated his position on the gas tax holiday: he would support the bill only if oil industry officials promised to lower retail gas prices for consumers.

“Until then, I don’t want to take a chance with taxpayer money going to industry,” Paterson said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver shares the governor’s concern about retailers and not consumers benefiting from a gas tax holiday, leading him to oppose the proposal.

But Silver spokesman Dan Weiller said the speaker is sympathetic to the truckers’ plight and he noted the Assembly passed an energy strategy package on Wednesday.

The package included legislation for a windfall profit tax on big oil companies and the development of a statewide gas price Web site to encourage comparative shopping.

It also allows for the sale of unbranded gas, which could encourage price competition and aims to stop “pump jumping,” in which pumps start charging people before gas is pumped.

Other solutions for high transportation costs included a state attorney general investigation into oil speculation on Wall Street, lower highway tolls and the elimination New York’s ton-mile tax.

Categories: Schenectady County

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