Friday, March 27, 2009

Bottles Still Fizzing

The final conclusion of the debate over the bottle bill's expansion will probably be the eleventh hour-as more senators express opposition to their leader on this contentious issue. This would have already been put to bed if not for the continued pushing of the governor. As the Politicker points out: "The bottle bill may not make it, although at the moment the budget remains highly fluid. A pared-down version that would extend deposits to bottled water was in a draft proposal last night, as reported this morning, but it's unclear if even that will pass. "We're still working on it," said State Senator Antoine Thompson, who has pushed for the expansion."

What's instructive here, is that it appears that the speaker has successfully excluded wine from the governor's budget-an indication that strong legislative leadership is the key to the resolution of many of these thorny budget issues. That being said, Finance Chair Kruger and a bevy of his colleagues are apparently circulating a letter of opposition that is to be handed to Malcolm Smith and his chief of staff Angelo Aponte: "The measure for bottled water was still alive on Wednesday, but may have now been nixed, according to multiple sources. State Senator Diane Savino told me earlier there is some resistance to it among Democrats in the conference."

Still, it's the feisty Kruger who remains the cynosure of the debate-something that some of the irksome folks over at the Albany Project take umbrage with. And here's how they characterize the senator: "Don't Let Gangsta Kruger Kill the Bill." Nice touch, no? Nothing like personal disparagement to elevate the legislative debate.

So, as Liz B has reported, flux is the word of the day-which is why it's all hands on deck as the sand in the hour glass pours out: "Pretty much everything in Albany is in a state of flux at the moment. The Bigger Better Bottle Bill, on which there was supposedly an agreement as of yesterday evening, is also back on the "no deal" list. The root of most problems continues to be the Senate where the Democrats' two-seat hold on the majority means anyone looking to kill a bill merely needs to pick off just one or two lawmakers to bring everything to a grinding halt."

And, as Democrat and Chronicle points out, "Proponents of adding a 5-cent deposit on bottles of water believed they had a deal late Wednesday, only to find out today that some Senate Democrats remain opposed. “There is certainly no readiness to do that here,” Sen. Pedro Espada, D-Bronx, said of the so-called bottle bill." Something to which the Times this morning lends credence: "Mr. Paterson’s proposal to allow grocery stores to sell wine appeared headed for defeat on Thursday night, as did a major expansion of the state’s recycling laws, which earlier this week appeared to have won the approval of key lawmakers."

But nothing is definite; as the NY Daily News underscores on the wine issue: "A push to allow grocery stores to sell wine appeared to be failing, though the governor was trying to salvage the idea." But overall, this isn't a good budget if you run a business in New York State-with those who defend small store owners in the minority fighting a real guard battle: "Lawmakers did tentatively agree to accept a slew of tax hikes that Paterson had proposed, including one to dramatically increase the fees stores pay for the right to sell cigarettes."

So the assembly and the governor are looking to destroy neighborhood commerce; and, in the final analysis, it will be up to the fractious senate to hold the line against disaster. Not a comforting picture overall.


The Crain's Insider (subscription) has weighed in on the bottle bill end game as well:

"As word leaked Wednesday night that Smith, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Gov. Paterson had agreed on a tentative framework for expanding nickel deposits to bottled water, opponents scrambled to divide Smith’s conference. Richard Lipsky, a supermarket and bodega lobbyist who opposes the bill, claimed on his blog that the deal was quickly blocked, at least for the moment, by the “principled opposition” of Democratic Sens. Carl Kruger, Craig Johnson, Diane Savino, Hiram Monserrate, Eric Adams, Martin Dilan, Ruth Hassel-Thompson, Kevin Parker and Jeff Klein."

Still, the Insider speculates that Smith's "failure" to push this bottle bill through would, "badly undermine his ability to negotiate with Silver and the governor." Hard to see why. Did Silver's apparent can kicking of wine undermine his ability?

Smith's folks are treading water here-and the shore line appears to be receding: "But a Smith supporter doubted that the senators would vote against an entire budget bill just because it included the bottle provision." But as we told Crain's: "Even Lipsky agrees; he says Smith would have to be compelled to remove the bottle deal from budget negotiations." Not much of an agreement on our part, is it?