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December 3, 2008

The Buffalo News

Expanded bottle bill is a tax increase in disguise

The Buffalo News editorialized on Nov. 21 in favor of the so-called “Bigger Better Bottle Bill, also knows as “B-4.”

The News has called for the passage of B-4 before. What made this editorial different were the reasons the paper is now supporting this bill. In the past, The News reasoned that B-4 would help the environment.

Now, however, it’s the prospect of the state collecting a new source of revenue (estimated between $118 million and $218 million) to help it through its financial pinch that is the driving force behind the call to action.

At a time of economic recession, when businesses and consumers are both struggling to keep their heads above water, could anyone think of a worse time to place another financial burden on top of the already oppressive tax and regulatory environment that exists in New York State?

Increasing deposits on beverage bottles by five cents will hurt consumers. A previous version would have driven up the cost of a case of soda and beer. This is a regressive tax, hitting the poorer members of our community disproportionately hard.

Because of the terribly poor record for recycling in New York City, this new measure will only increase recycling rates by less that 1 percent statewide.

To add insult to injury, the additional revenue will not even go into the Environmental Protection Fund, but rather into the state’s general fund to be used for who knows what.

A version of the old “duck” analogy certainly applies in this case: If it looks like a tax, is collected like a tax and is used like a tax, it’s a tax!

So let’s make sure we all see the big picture here.

By passing B-4, the state would create a policy that will not increase recycling rates, will reduce the Environmental Protection Fund and will place a new tax on business and consumers right in the middle of a recession.

The News claimed that the current system, which allows the industry to keep unclaimed deposits to meet the added costs of recycling, is “anti taxpayer” and that passing B-4 is just plain “common sense.”

If B-4 now becomes the standard in this state for a common-sense approach to helping business, the taxpayer and the environment, we’re in more trouble than I ever thought.

What The News editorial called for is the same old tax-and-spend policy that has contributed to getting New York into its current mess and continues to drive out people, businesses and jobs. The bottling industry has offered an alternative policy that, by expanding existing curbside recycling programs, will actually increase recycling, help the environment and avoid new taxes on business and the consumer.

The state of Maine recently repealed its bottle bill in favor of enhanced curbside recycling. Now that’s a much better way to define “common sense.”

Peter Vukelic is vice president of government relations for Try-It Distributing in Lancaster.


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