The New York state legislature should be applauded for finally passing a bill that sticks a fee on new tire sales, with money generated from it to be used for scrap tire abatement programs. It also should be spanked.
The $2.50 per tire fee on new tires sold by dealers, plus an identical fee on tires on new cars purchased in the state, is expected to produce $56 million annually for New York. Through its expiration date of 2010, that means a minimum of about $336 million raised.
So how much of that will be used to clean up the huge scrap tire stockpile in the state and promote markets for worn-out tires? How about just $16.3 million annually, around $98 million during the life of the law.
The fee is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The average consumer is environmentally conscious enough to not complain about paying $10 or $12.50 more on tires or a new car if that money is used to reduce the scrap tire problem. But only 29 percent of the fee will go to that purpose, and the remainder of the hidden tax is sent to the state's depleted general fund.
Scrap tire abatement would receive much less if Gov. George Pataki got his way. Despite his conservative Republican colors, he wanted even more of the fees sent to the state's coffers-more of a hidden tax-but the legislature overrode his veto.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association and its tire-company constituents lobbied hard to get the bill passed. It's a great victory for them, since New York has the second-largest stockpile of scrap tires among the states and has been resistant to solving the problem. At least the law does address the issue.
The honest approach would have been to set a fee that goes strictly to scrap tire abatement. But perhaps that's expecting too much from New York politicians, who obviously are more concerned with budgetary problems than scrap tires.