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March 29, 2007

Spitzer: Bottle deposit law won't be expanded By Jay Gallagher

ALBANY — A plan to expand the state's bottle-deposit law to include water and other non-carbonated beverages is dead, Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Thursday.

"The bottle bill is not in the budget,'' Spitzer told reporters after emerging from about six hours of closed-door talks with legislative leaders.

Spitzer had wanted the law that required a nickel deposit on beer and soda cans and bottles, enacted in 1982, expanded to other beverages. But the Republican-controlled Senate opposed the idea from the start, claiming it was merely a new tax.

Spitzer had counted on raising $25 million from unclaimed deposits to use on environmental projects this year and $100 million the year after that. But he asserted that the money can be found for the projects from other sources.

Spitzer vowed to continue the fight.

"This is a policy objective we will be pursuing,'' he said.

"We're obviously disappointed that the bottle bill wasn't adopted,'' said Robert Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates. "We had hoped for an agreement.'' But he pointed out that the bulk of the fund used to pay for environmental projects — $225 million this year — comes from other sources.

The bottle-bill decision was the only one that Spitzer and legislative leaders made public after their marathon meeting, although they promised more details later Thursday after lawmakers have been briefed.

Spitzer also said the Legislature is on track to pass the entire budget, expected to total about $121.6 billion, shortly before midnight Saturday. The new fiscal year starts Sunday.

"We believe we will get an on-time budget,'' he said.

He also said he was disappointed that so much of the discussions around the budget have been behind closed doors. Reform groups blasted Spitzer for what they call reneging on his pledge to open up the process.

"Do we all wish there had been more public articulation? You bet,'' he said.


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