A point of contention for today’s special session is a measure that comes up whenever times are tight: the state putting a claim on unclaimed bottle and can deposits.
You know, the extra $0.05 you pay for every soft drink. That’s there because the government mandates it, in order to encourage recycling. However, about 30% of the deposits are never returned, and right now the distributors keep that money.
However, Gov. Rell and others now say that the money belongs to the state. In fact, this is something Massachusetts does, and according to the Courant article, it’s been upheld in court.
Every time this has come up in the past, it’s been shot down by a furious lobbying effort. This time may be no different:
But the powerful beer wholesalers and soda companies — with high-paid lobbyists — are fighting the proposal hard in the Capitol corridors, saying they are not making a windfall at all. They said it’s actually a wash because expensive crushing machines, shredders, warehouse space and union-paid truck drivers eat up all those nickels that go to the distributors.
“We understand it’s raining out. There’s a rainy day fund for that purpose,” said Patrick J. Sullivan, a veteran lobbyist who also is executive director of the Connecticut Beer Wholesalers Association. “Why single out beer drinkers?”
Sullivan said he would not oppose an increase in taxes if the levy were imposed fairly on all citizens.
“Be upfront about it. This is a hidden tax on the consumer,” said Sullivan, of the influential firm, Sullivan & LeShane. “Put it all at the curb. Just don’t single us out.” (Keating)
Let me get this straight, then: instead of the state claiming the money, which was never part of the price of the product, and works more like a refundable tax for consumers who bother to recycle, we should instead raid the rainy day fund and raise taxes? There’s an argument that’s going to fly.
Outgoing Speaker Jim Amann, however, agrees with the distributors. Interestingly, both Senate President Donald Williams and Gov. Rell are for taking the money, as is Rep. Chris Caruso, who said:
“I find it interesting that this archaic statute continues to survive. The industry should never have banked on this money to begin with because it wasn’t theirs.” (Keating)
Caruso is right– that revenue was never intended to fund the recycling program. But that won’t stop lobbyists for the distributors from trying to keep it.
Distributors and their lobbyists have been campaigning all over the country to stop additional “bottle bills” such as ours from being enacted in other states, not to mention efforts to expand them. They seem to have plenty of money to spend (note that they’ve hired Sullivan & LeShane). Maybe they could put that lobbying money into funding the recycling programs instead.
Right now it’s unclear whether the deposit money portion of the bill will go forward. As the article notes, two separate bills have been drawn up: one with the deposit money claim included, and one without.
Keating, Christopher. “State Eyes Unclaimed Bottle, Can Deposits.” Hartford Courant 23 November, 2008.