The typical homeowner, faced with staggering winter heating bills, could save about $100 a year on natural gas and electricity under legislation that will be introduced Monday by Assembly Minority Leader John J. Faso.
Faso, R-Kinderhook, announced the proposal during a news conference Saturday in Chef's Restaurant, 291 Seneca St. He said that legislation and a second bill that he will introduce will help businesses.
"We must act now to deal with energy costs," Faso declared. "Cutting energy taxes will give help to those who sorely need it -- homeowners and businesses.
"We know that the state has a sizable surplus and can afford to do this," he added.
The Faso bills call for the immediate elimination of the Gross Receipts Tax on energy and the Petroleum Business Tax on commercial heating oil. Each would be retroactive to Jan. 1.
Faso estimated that elimination of the Gross Receipts Tax, which amounts to 3 to 4 percent of a typical utility bill, would save New York businesses and consumers an estimated $500 million a year. Abolishing the Petroleum Business Tax, a flat, per-gallon tax on heating oil, would save businesses $19 million annually, he said.
Faso noted that the site of the news conference, Chef's Restaurant, currently pays about $5,000 a month for electricity.
Elimination of the Gross Receipts Tax would free money to enable the restaurant to expand its kitchen, which in turn could lead to the creation of more jobs, said Lou Billittier Jr., owner of Chef's.
Asked about the likelihood of the bills' being passed in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, Faso said he is optimistic because legislation he proposed last year to repeal the Gross Receipts Tax lost by only a single vote.
Assemblyman James Hayes, R-Amherst, who also spoke at the news conference, said his office is bombarded daily with calls from homeowners and small businesses pleading for relief from oppressive heating costs.
"This is something we can do and do immediately to bring some relief," he said. "This is a tax that could easily be put on the ash heap."
"This is a great piece of legislation," said Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, pointing out that energy costs in Western New York are 40 percent above the national average. Both Faso and Hayes noted that because the energy taxes are figured as a percentage of the energy costs paid by consumers, this winter's high heating bills have produced "a windfall in energy-tax revenue" for New York State.
"There will be some in Albany who will want to spend it," said Faso.
"The state should not be reaping a windfall on the backs of ratepayers," he said.
Besides helping homeowners, elimination of the Gross Receipts Tax, Faso said, "is the one single step that will result in more jobs being created and retained throughout Western New York."