New York Gov. Kathy Hochul confirmed a potential gas tax reduction is “on the table” in negotiations with legislative leaders.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Friday, Hochul was asked whether the state budget due next week will include either a gas-tax cut or some sort of rebate for motorists, similar to what California is considering. Hochul confirmed the issue has been a topic of discussion during negotiations over the state budget, which is due next week.
“It's on the table,” Hochul said. “We're having those conversations. Again, the timing of the budget is perfect to address this.”
The state’s new fiscal year begins Thursday.
Hochul has been asked several times about relaxing the state’s gas taxes amid a major increase in per-gallon prices that's partly driven by the conflict in Ukraine, but never had fully embraced the idea as strongly as she did Friday. The average gallon of regular gas in New York is $4.35, according to AAA, compared to $2.91 the same time a year ago.
Previously, Hochul had said her office was examining the issue and trying to determine whether a cut in the state’s share of taxes would actually translate to noticeable relief at the pump. Some of the state’s cut also goes toward funding road repair and infrastructure projects, which are a major part of Hochul’s budget platform.
On Friday, Hochul said she and legislative leaders are “very sensitive” to the issue because much of the state does have significant access to public transit.
“This is about people getting to their jobs and getting the kids dropped off at school and just trying to live their everyday lives and the costs keep going up and up,” she said. “And it's hard. So we are very centered and it's something I want to continue talking about in the budget context, for sure.”
All told, New York State’s cut of the various gas taxes is about 33 cents per gallon, according to the state Division of Budget.
State Senate Democrats have proposed cutting that by about 16 cents from May 1 through the end of the year. But in recent days, Hochul and legislative leaders had discussed the possibility of a direct rebate to motorists.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat representing Yonkers, told reporters she would prefer a tax reduction to a rebate since it would provide more direct relief.
“Obviously we want to be able to have people feel some relief at the pump,” she said. “So I guess in that sense, it would not be a check, it would be more relief at the pump. We’re just trying to figure out how it can be most helpful.”
Hochul and legislative leaders have been negotiating a final budget agreement behind closed doors. If lawmakers are to approve an on-time budget, bills would have to be introduced by early next week to ensure they can be voted on by Thursday – unless Hochul were to waive the mandated three-day aging period for legislation.
On Friday, Hochul said it was too soon to say whether she was willing to do so.