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February 1, 2007

The Post-Standard

Bruno shows resistance to bottle bill expansion
By Miyoko Ohtake

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno sipped from a bottle of water as he spoke Wednesday about Gov. Eliot Spitzer's budget plan. In a few months, Bruno's Aquafina could cost 5 cents more per bottle.

Spitzer's budget asks the state Legislature to pass a "Bigger Bottle Bill" that would add a container deposit fee to noncarbonated bottled beverages that could be returned for a nickel, just like containers of beer and soda.

"Another tax on anyone who drinks beverages?" Bruno said, before lifting the water to his lips. "Hell, I can't afford that."

The current legislation, passed in 1982, requires deposits only on carbonated and alcoholic drinks.

Spitzer's proposal also requires unclaimed deposits to be sent to the Environmental Protection Fund, instead of to beverage companies. Spitzer projects that the new law would produce $25 million in revenue this year for open space preservation, outdoor recreation and farmland preservation programs.

This isn't the first time the bottle bill expansion has been a hot topic. The idea received support from the Assembly in 2005 and 2006 but did not pass in the Senate either year. Groups such as the Food Industry Alliance of New York oppose the bill. The Food Industry Alliance spent $294,758 in 2006 lobbying against the bottle bill, as well as other issues, according to state records,

"It's an extraordinarily ineffective way to recycle, since we already have a current system to recycle these products," said Jim Rogers, the Food Industry Alliance president. "And we're really not talking about helping recycling much. It's just a scheme by the government to get more money from the pockets of customers."

Pat Franklin, the executive director of the Container Recycling Institute, said more than 2.4 billion water bottles are sold in New York state, most of which are not recycled. Three states with extended bottle bills - Maine, California and Hawaii - have increased recycling. And, Franklin said, the deposit is not a new tax.

"I sure wish all my taxes were 100 percent refundable," Franklin said.

© 2007 The Post-Standard.
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