Mahoney implies Sweetland is naive
Who proposed the gas tax cap in Onondaga County?
Former Legislature Chairman Dale Sweetland, now a candidate for Congress, proposed the cap.
What was he thinking?
Sweetland said that, with gas prices surging to more than $3 a gallon, he wanted to "give people some relief at the pump" and thought a sales tax cap was the way to go. "Gas prices were moving up enormously fast," he said. "People were complaining about it all the time." Sweetland said he also believed it would have been wrong for the county to be getting a windfall of new sales tax revenues as people struggled to fill their tanks.
What made him think the oil companies and service stations would pass the savings on to customers, as opposed to doing what businesses do - charging what the market will bear?
Sweetland said he had spoken to service station operators, who told him they would pass the savings on. However, he said he had no guarantee that they would do so. "Obviously, the county cannot control that," he said. "That was a risk. We knew that. I knew that. But I felt they would not pocket it. And initially, the price did drop a little, but the price of gas is so volatile that it's impossible to know if it ever saved people money."
Would he have voted to lift the cap if he was still a member of the Legislature?
Probably not, because he still thinks there's a chance that it's saving people some money, he said. "I have mixed feelings about it," he said. "I probably would have voted to keep the cap on."
At the same time, he said he does not have strong objections to it being lifted as long as the extra sales tax revenue is used to offset property taxes. Mareane said that's assured because any non-property tax revenue the county receives reduces the money it must collect in property taxes to run county government.
County Executive Joanie Mahoney has a different oppinion...
It is a gimmick," she said. "It has not resulted in savings for our citizens at the pump. The citizens of the county lost out on $20 million."
Is there any way for county government to influence the price of gas?
No, Mahoney said. Gas prices are a factor of a worldwide market, influenced by everything from supply and demand to the war in Iraq, and any attempt by Onondaga County to lower prices, even in a small way, were destined to fail, she said. "It was really idealistic and maybe naive to believe oil companies, wholesalers and retailers would pass the savings on out of the goodness of their hearts," she said.