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February 28, 2009

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Gov. Paterson's money grab isn't consumer- or seller-friendly

The expanded bottle deposit law is simply another unfunded mandate being passed along to New York businesses which, in turn, will be forced to pass the increased costs along to average New Yorkers — and at a time when we can least afford it. One environmental expert estimates that if the bottle law is expanded to cover additional beverages such as children's juice drinks, sports drinks and iced teas, the average increase in price for each container sold in stores will be 15 cents (including the 5-cent deposit). Administration of the program will cost New Yorkers another $190 million on top of the current program's cost of $125 million.

The state will now seize the unclaimed deposits instead of allowing the businesses who have to pay for the law to use that money to partially cover the cost of its implementation. What's worse is that Gov. Paterson has positioned this as a means to clean up the environment, yet he also proposes raiding the dedicated Environmental Protection Fund and hopes that the unclaimed deposits (that come about as a result of people not recycling) cover the shortfall. In effect, the governor is betting that New Yorkers won't recycle and will lose their deposits to cover our state's budget shortfall.

In addition to the impact on consumers, expanding the bottle law makes no sense for retailers. Expanding the bottle law will force grocers to dedicate even more of their space to dirty bottles and cans. Grocers have been saying for years that they can run clean food stores or operate clean recycling centers, not both.

Rochester residents can't afford this bad idea, especially now as we struggle with rising food costs, lost jobs and the nation's worst economic crisis in decades. Paterson and our state legislators need to rethink expanding the bottle deposit law. Hiding tax increases in the guise of environmental proposals or healthy initiatives is a cheap political trick that will cripple New York businesses and grocery stores, hurt every single New Yorker and do very little to improve our environment, our health or our economy.

Rogers is president and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State which represents supermarket chains, independent food retailers and grocery wholesalers.


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