As central New Yorkers hop in their cars to head off for the holiday weekend, the 24th Congressional District race is focusing on gas prices and energy policy.
The Republican candidate in the race, former federal prosecutor John Katko, is calling on incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Maffei to say no to what Katko calls a growing effort in Washington to raise the federal gas tax.
He says central New Yorkers just can’t afford it.
“So it's up almost anywhere from 12 to 18 cents upward a gallon," Katko said. "That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a lot of money and it adds up quickly. If you talk to any trucker or any company that ships in interstate commerce, they will tell you that’s a huge cost to them. And we, as consumers, will bear that cost.”
He says middle class families are the ones that bear the brunt of the increases.
“We hear a lot of talk over who’s for the middle class and everything else," Katko said. "Gas taxes are middle class killers, because what they do is increase not only the price of gas, but the cost of goods brought to market by transportation. So we need to do something about that.”
Katko criticizes Maffei's no vote on a bill that would have expanded U.S. energy production by reopening offshore drilling locations, eliminating some federal bureaucracy and allowing access to oil deposits in Alaska.
"This bill would have reopened offshore drilling that was closed and forbidden by Obama," Katko explained. "This bill would have eliminated some red tape on gas and oil production in the United States. It would access national petroleum reserves. All with the idea to lower the burden with Americans on gas prices.”
Maffei’s camp calls Katko’s comments desperate and dishonest, saying the Democrat has always opposed increasing the gas tax. Campaign manager Kane Miller says Maffei voted against the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America that Works Act, because he believes it would have rewarded oil companies who already get billions in tax breaks.