GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

April 1, 2013

My View: Bottle law change a bad deal for all

The current side-door move to raise the handling fee for bottle redemption will tax small businesses in Massachusetts just as our economy is seeing the light of recovery.

And it will hit consumers in the wallet and pocketbook as costs are driven up on products they purchase every day.

The handling fee is what redemption centers are paid to process bottle and can returns as part of the outdated and inefficient Bottle Bill. The fact that repeated efforts to expand the Bottle Bill to additional beverage products have failed in the Legislature for nearly two decades is a strong indicator of the limited appetite to further subsidize this inefficient system of recycling.

It’s also a signal for what this initiative is really about: another tax by another name.

The Patrick administration wants to tax beer and beverage distributors with a larger handling fee – increasing it from 2.25 cents per container to 3.25 cents — and raise costs on consumers to reward the dwindling number of redemption centers in Massachusetts. But the priority isn’t really about more recycling. It’s about the unredeemed containers — on which the state keeps every 5 cent deposit.

The handling fee will raise costs for consumers and tax small businesses like the craft brewing industry, which has seen exponential growth over the past two years. Last year alone craft brewers contributed $535 million to the Massachusetts economy, but rather than encourage this type of economic expansion, the administration has chosen to penalize it by proposing a hidden tax that will only stunt its future growth.

Furthermore, the handling fee tax will also put good jobs at risk at a time when good jobs are what our economy needs most.

Maybe that’s why the Patrick Administration is attempting to raise the handling fee through a regulatory procedure, without going to voters or the legislators who represent them. Massachusetts consumers will have little voice in this process unless they start demanding to be heard.

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