'TAX-HIKER' MIKE'S FOUL GAS ODOR
By DAVID SEIFMAN City Hall Bureau Chief
June 21, 2008 --
BOCA RATON, Fla. - Let the little people pay higher gas taxes.
That was the harsh message for beleaguered motorists delivered yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg.
With drivers around the country fuming about rising gas prices, Bloomberg dropped a bombshell into their tanks yesterday by calling for increased fuel taxes to cut consumption.
The billionaire mayor offered the politically explosive suggestion during a discussion of offshore drilling - a sensitive issue in Florida - following a speech about Barack Obama to a Jewish group here.
Bloomberg endorsed drilling as part of a comprehensive energy strategy and said he's been even-handed in his criticism of the presidential candidates, lambasting Obama on free trade and John McCain on the gas tax.
"I think he [McCain] and Hillary Clinton couldn't both have been more wrong when they wanted to reduce the gasoline tax during the summer," said the mayor.
Then he added this advice, which is certain to make the average motorist cringe:
"They should be raising the tax and encouraging people to reduce consumption. The anti-tax people don't like that. But using capitalism to encourage the right behavior is exactly the [right] direction of going. Tax policy is the way government uses capitalism."
That position is consistent with Bloomberg's oft-stated warning that "there's no free lunch" and that the United States needs to drastically overhaul its energy policies.
But Bloomberg has never before stated categorically that gas prices have to go up to slacken demand.
Motorists at a Harlem gas station filling their tanks - and emptying their wallets - were angered by Bloomberg's comments.
"Bloomberg's a billionaire and has no idea what it's like out here," said Les Cox.
"Why would Bloomberg want us to use less gas? Is he still on his green kick?" asked Anthony LoBosco, who paid $71.11 to fill up a Jeep.
"He should be finding ways to help people rather than telling us to use less."
Bloomberg said critics can't "have it both ways."
"You can't be against everything and say I still want to turn on my air conditioner," he declared.
Additional reporting by Josh Zembik