Today’s news:

Faced with a $1.5 billion deficit, Gov. David Paterson is considering a number of steps he might take to balance the state budget. This is not easy. Like the mayor, the governor has a number of alternatives and none of them will be popular.

But of all that we have heard, there is one particularly distasteful proposal. The governor has said he might lift the cap on the state gasoline tax. Just when gasoline was returning to an affordable level, the governor is considering driving the price up once again.

Bad idea. Because of the existing state tax, New Yorkers already pay far more for a gallon of gas than drivers in New Jersey. The theory, we assume, is that gas is somewhat of a luxury and that raising the tax and thus the price per gallon will help protect the environment.

This may have minimal impact in Manhattan, where people rely more heavily on mass transit. But in Queens, families rely on their cars to go grocery shopping, take their children to school and do a thousand errands. Raising the gas tax will create a burden for middle−income families and will cut into profits for the companies they work for.

Before touching the gas tax, Paterson should try once again to look for ways to tighten government spending.

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