Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bottling Up Supermarkets

The battle over the expansion of the bottle bill is heating up-with the new chair of the senate Encon Committee, Antonie Thompson, announcing his support for the measure: "A key Senate Democrat is backing the expansion of the bottle bill, which most likely means that before the summer New Yorkers will be paying nickel deposits on water, juice and sport-drink cans and bottles. I'm supportive of it," new Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, said. "This is a step we need to take." Expanding the 27-year-old bottle bill that now covers only beer and soda containers has been blocked for the last few years by the Senate Republicans, who lost their majority in November. Passing the bottle-bill expansion could be the first significant policy shift caused by the flip in control of the Senate to the Democrats this year."

The senate will be the major battleground on this fight-and it's not certain if there are 32 votes in the body in favor of the measure: "Thompson's support doesn't guarantee Senate passage, and a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, said the leader hasn't taken a position on it yet."

That being said, the opinions expressed by the DEC commissioner are badly off key: "State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said Wednesday enacting the bottle-bill expansion may be the easiest decision lawmakers have to make as they grapple with how to close a $15.4 billion budget deficit. "As Gov. Paterson has made clear, New York is facing a staggering budget deficit and must make many hard choices," Grannis said at a press conference in Syracuse. "But updating New York's 27-year-old Bottle Bill is not one of them."

What an affront to all of the food store owners working in the city where Commissioner Grannis lives! It's never difficult for someone like Grannis, who has to our knowledge ever owned or operated a retail business, to call for impositions on entrepreneurs-ignorant, or perhaps callous, as he is about costs of operating in NYC.

As the state's Business Council says: "We think it's a hidden tax," Business Council spokesman Michael Moran said today. He said the business group also fears it will take valuable materials out of municipal recycling programs and impose a burden on supermarkets, convenience stores and other retail outlets that will have to store and process the cans and bottles."

And it is a burden that is, not only opposed by store owners, but by the workers whose jobs are contingent on the profitability of enterprises that have been going out of business in the city at an alarming rate. Our view-a close vote, with the opposition prevailing.