March 12, 2009
Bigger Better Bottle Bill
While I do appreciate your position on the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, I do not support many of the costs associated with this measure. If the BBBB was truly about the environment then expansion would only include the provision adding the non-carbonated water, tea and juice containers. This alone would accomplish the goal of significantly reducing containers discarded along our roadsides and parks. The most onerous parts of this bill for my industry will add significant cost to our already over-taxed products.
In your issue last week you say that those against the BBBB refer to deposits as a “tax.” I can tell you that we have not and do not consider the deposit a tax. You correctly state that the deposit is fully refundable. What is a tax to the ultimate consumer of deposit beverages are the handling fees we pay out to retailers. In the proposed BBBB, is an increase of 36 cents per case of beverages. This equates to 1.5 cents per container. I had the opportunity to testify before the Senate committee this past Friday, where I assured Senator Thompson and those in attendance, their prices would go up as a result of an increase in the handling fee. This is an added cost of doing business, mandated by the state that will ultimately end up being funded by those least likely to afford it, the consumer. Frank Mesiah President of the Buffalo NAACP testified in agreement with the reality of increased prices to those consumers least likely to afford this regressive tax.
The other provision of the BBBB that we are strongly opposed to is the confiscation of the unredeemed deposits. When the Bottle Bill was first enacted, we as bottlers and distributors were left with all the costs associated with bringing it to market. Before this legislation we were a two shift operation, but with the added time, and cost associated with its enactment, we had to add a third shift. These added costs to this day are, in part underwritten by the unclaimed deposits. The unclaimed nickels do not come close to covering our costs associated with the current bottle bill. While many claim these unredeems are only padding our profits, I can honestly say they do not. Should we lose the unredeems, it will cause us to raise our prices to cover our costs. Put simply, we look at unredeems as our industry’s handling fee.
My company employs 250 people with good paying, full time jobs. We pay over 90 percent of their health care and we provide them with a 401K, a union pension program and a profit sharing program. When our prices go up significantly to our consumers, we see a corresponding decrease in sales. A sales decrease results in less people working and ultimately layoffs. If our elected officials such as Antoine Thompson, Sam Hoyt, Mark Schroeder and Crystal Peoples support the BBBB, then it is a vote for higher taxes on their constituents and a vote for lost jobs. How can we consider any measure that will only add to our already nine percent unemployment rate? Our industry is not fighting for higher profits, we are trying to protect our employees and their families from a state that has and continues to be anti-business and anti-consumer. We are avid supporters for the environment, we do not support measures that will increase our costs through hidden fees, and we do not support higher unemployment.
Thank you for the opportunity for my side to be heard. I would be glad to answer any question you or your staff has in regard to my position on the BBBB.
Paul V. Vukelic
President/COO, Try-It Distributing Co., Inc., Balkan Beverage, LLC