March 20, 2009
State could generate millions from bottle bill
With just a little more than 10 days before New York state should have its 2009-2010 budget in place, there are several secondary public policy issues that could get rolled into a final budget compromise. Chief among those issues are a “bottle bill” increasing deposit fees and expanding their scope and expanding the sale of wine into grocery and convenience stores. As a way to increase state revenues, policymakers may be willing to compromise a bit, so as to get their issue resolved and still add to the state's coffers. Proponents on both issues have never been able to overcome opposition to their efforts.
Environmentalist have, for years, wanted to expand the bottle bill to include juice, tea and water bottles, which have a major share of the retail market now. When the original legislation was enacted the sales in these categories were small when compared to beer and soda containers - in one estimate they now make up nearly 25 percent of the market. If the legislation to expand the scope and increase the fee beyond the current 5 cent level passes, the state is estimated to generate nearly $118 million annually.
New York's still fledgling wine producers have, also for years, wanted to land in the one market that they know will expand sales - supermarkets. While they have had to walk a fine line about pushing for the change - not wanting to alienate liquor stores that currently are their chief outlet for sales - they have encouraged talks to allow this.
According to the Business Council of New York State, New York will generate $105 million in new franchise fees the first year it is allowed and another $55 million the following year. That doesn't count the sales and excise taxes that will be generated from it.
What may make all the difference this year is the ability to get into the lucrative wine business, supermarkets and convenience stores will relent in their opposition to expanding the bottle bill, which they have long opposed. As well, convenience store owners who have been put out by New York's failure to collect taxes on cigarettes at competing Native American establishments, would be allowed to enter the wine market, under the governor's proposal, possibly partially pacifying their disdain for Albany.
The bottom line is that proponents of both issues might be able to help get a compromise that will net New York state more than an estimated $250 million in its first year, which goes a way in helping it close a $14 billion gap.
Cosentino is a former mayor of Auburn and can be contacted at email@example.com