ALBANY—Several Democatic state senators on the Environmental Conservation Committee have refused to sign a letter from Republican Senator Carl Marcellino calling for full funding of the Environmental Protection Fund because it contains a buried call to sink the proposed expansion of the state's bottle-deposit law.
"The letter is a little misleading," State Senator Antoine Thompson, who supports the bottle bill and chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee, told me.
It was drafted by Marcellino, the ranking member on the committee, who started by making the case against capping transfers of the state's real estate transfer tax to the fund – as David Paterson has proposed – and replacing those dollars with millions of nickels that add up when New Yorkers don't return used beverage containers. They currently go to supermarkets.
The bottle bill is once again facing a battle in the State Senate, even after the chamber was won by Democrats. Earlier this week, officials raided the EPF for $50 million to close this year's budget deficit.
Reached by phone, Marcellino said he didn't think the EPF should rely on a "catch-as-catch-can source" of funding. Environmental advocates agree with his position on funding the EPF, but support the proposed bottle bill expansion as a source of money for the general fund, and eventually for environmental protection.
When told that Thompson called the letter misleading, Marcellino said, "What he should have done is give me a call. He's the committee chair, I'm the ranker, he should have just called."
"This is not set in stone, this is a draft," he said.