Is the Bottle Bill Sunk?

ALBANY—Conspicuously absent from the deficit reduction package done yesterday: a proposed expansion of the bottle deposits.

What once seemed like a done deal, a popular fix to a revenue problem, is headed for a dog fight in the State Senate. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said he remains “uncommitted” on the bill, let) alone making it a legislative priority. (See the video below.

State Senator Antoine Thompson, who endorsed the bill and as chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee gave it a key boost, said he is not sure whether it will be taken up independently or in the larger context of the state budget.

“It’s still early, and we’re going to do everything we can to make the case,” he told me this morning.

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who opposes the bottle bill, claimed the omission from the deficit reduction plan as a victory. Lipsky is close to State Senator Carl Kruger, who now chairs the finance committee, and walked away from me saying he had nothing to do with the bill when I asked him about it the other day.

Opposition to the bill is now being couched along ethnic lines, and it is expected that several Hispanic lawmakers – two of whom, State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. and State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., stood with Kruger in the struggle over senate leadership — will come out against it.

Katherine Nadeau, a program associate with Environmental Advocates of New York, said that the money raised from the measure – it would put deposits on bottled water and juice and would send unclaimed deposits to the state – is critical to funding the Environmental Protection Fund. The fund was cut yesterday, and the current budget proposal for next year would substitute revenues from real estate transfer taxes with bottle monies. No more than $80 million of real estate taxes would be transferred.

“If they cap it, and the bottle bill doesn’t go through, the funding would be miniscule, and it would have tangible impacts around the state,” Nadeau told me after a press conference.

Is the Bottle Bill Sunk?