Schenectady, Saratoga Co. gas tax caps nearing end


CAPITAL REGION — Schenectady and Saratoga counties last spring implemented a $2 gas tax cap in response to surging gas prices, adding savings of 4 to 8 cents at the pump.

Unless lawmakers choose to extend the measure, it’s expected to sunset in Schenectady County on Feb. 28 and Saratoga County on Dec. 31.

Saratoga County’s Republican-dominated Board of Supervisors would act on the matter if necessary, said county spokesperson Christine Rush. Designed to alleviate the burden of record-breaking gas prices — peaking as high as a $4.97 average in the Capital Region — Rush believes that the cap worked out.

“At this point, we’re not going to speculate over what may happen in the future, but it’ll remain open,” Rush said. “They’ll take a look at it if needed.”

The partial moratorium was expected to result in upwards of $4 million in consumer savings.

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A cocktail of limited supply and high demand, the cost of petroleum-based products abruptly spiked in the aftermath of COVID-19. Costs have drastically fluctuated several times since then as a result of government intervention, the war in Ukraine and OPEC’s recent decision to slash 2 million barrels a day.

Gas prices now average $3.82 in the Capital Region, down a cent from last month and down $1.15 from June.

Schenectady County Legislature Democratic Majority Leader Gary Hughes hasn’t set a firm position on the cap’s future.

“I think it’s probably a decision the group would make collectively and we haven’t had that discussion yet,” said Hughes. “I wouldn’t want to speculate, but we’ll certainly have that discussion.”

Sales tax revenue has been strong enough to “more than offset” potential losses, Hughes added. The county’s $94,543,703 sales tax collected between January and September is expected to exceed its budgeted amount of $103,866,175.

Schenectady County is one of only three counties in the state to impose a nine-month cap.

Anthony Jasenski, chair of the county legislature, said in a statement that the partial moratorium was the “right choice” when it was implemented.

Warren County rejected a gas tax cap proposal earlier this year, convinced such measures would take a heavy toll on administrative coffers. Montgomery County discussed the possibility of a cap, but it was never formally put up for a vote due to little support.

The Biden administration’s push for a three-month federal gas tax holiday was dead on arrival back in the spring. The state’s June-instated 16-cent gas tax suspension is slated to expire by year’s end. Revenue losses from the gas holiday are expected to number $585 million.

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Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara D-Rotterdam in a statement boasted that his original proposal for a year-long suspension back in March was superior because it allowed lawmakers to revisit the issue in the 2023 budget. He favors an additional six-month extension.

“The gas tax suspension has helped New Yorkers to save more of their hard-earned money during these challenging times,” Santabarbara said in a statement. “It was needed then, it’s still needed now, and it should continue.”

State Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, recently touted legislation aimed at enacting suspensions whenever gas prices soar. The bill would fully suspend the state’s gas tax until prices dip below $3 and create a long-term $2.25 cap.

Governor’s office spokesperson Justin Henry in an email statement didn’t specify whether or not Gov. Kathy Hochul would support prolonging the gas tax.

“The Governor worked closely with the legislature to provide more than $600 million in tax relief to New Yorkers by instituting a six-month gas tax holiday — which is already among the longest in the nation — and will continue to explore solutions to help New Yorkers meet the rising cost of living,” Henry said.

A number of gas stations across the region, especially near Ballston Spa, drifted close to $3 before prices rebounded in early October. Costs in recent weeks have trickled back below $4.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil

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