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258 State Street
Albany, New York 12210-1992
(800) 442-3589 | (518) 465-
President and CEO
February 7, 2017
Hon. Andrew Cuomo
Governor, State of New York
Albany, New York 12225
Re: S.4158 (Felder)
Dear Governor Cuomo:
I write today on behalf of Retail Council members large and small
throughout New York State to urge your approval of the captioned
legislation, which would establish a moratorium on the adoption of any
local law, ordinance, rule or regulation related to charging a fee for
carryout merchandise bags or a fee of similar effect.
Supporters of New York City’s pending five-cent-per-carryout-bag
fee pitch the levy as environmentally sound, saving the City from a
perceived scourge of plastic shopping bags. While the retail industry
recognizes and appreciates that the fee would supplant the far-less
desirable ban on the use of plastic carryout bags, we are concerned
that the underpinning message blames the city’s retail industry for an
environmental disaster but simultaneously puts it in line to score a
new profit center from it.
Opponents brand the bag fee as a nothing more than a tax kept by
the merchant to the detriment of the consumer, particularly low-income
shoppers for whom every nickel counts.
It is true that the City’s pending law would allow merchants to
retain the entirety of the five-cent fee, but few merchants think the
nickel-a-bag “profit” would be worth the attendant administrative
costs and the public backlash that awaits every time the cash register
attendant adds the fee for each bag a customer would need.
Retailers are caught somewhere in the middle: we didn’t ask for
the fee, we don’t like the fee, we don’t want to charge the fee, and
yet, for a variety of reasons economic and environmental, it is far
preferable to a ban on plastic bags in New York City.
Letter to Governor Cuomo re: S.4158 (Felder)
Page Two of Two
February 7, 2017
We support the captioned bill because its overarching concept
speaks directly to a growing concern among retailers of all size
operating not only in New York City, but throughout the state: the
growing policy-based aspirations of local governments. While
potentially well-intentioned, localized policy agendas increase costs
for local governments, local taxpayers, and local businesses.
This need not be the case. In the instant matter - plastic bags -
New York State has in place a statute adopted in 2008 that requires
retailers that provide plastic checkout bags to recycle. We take back
plastic from anywhere, not just our stores. It’s a sensible and
effective law that works well in tandem with the retail industry’s
commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic bags.
We think the captioned legislation fits well within the context
of your signature call for local governments to reduce costs from
within; to, as you wrote in your 2017 State of the State Message,
“develop localized plans that find real, recurring property tax
savings by coordinating and eliminating duplicative services.”
During the annual budget cycle, news reports are filled with
local officials visiting Albany to demand more aid to localities
and/or a reduction in “unfunded mandates.” Local statutes such as
myriad plastic bag schemes, chemical content in children’s products,
item pricing, and other such policy issues are self-inflicted unfunded
mandates that stand in the way of local governments doing the vital
work for which they are chartered, leading more to an increase in
local property taxes and fees than to carefully-considered advancement
of public policy. Like this bag fee, these local laws are unnecessary,
duplicative, and expensive for local taxpayers and businesses.
With that in mind, we reiterate our pledge to work with City and
state officials to address the environmental cause purportedly at the
heart of the City statute in question, and the Retail Council of New
York State urges your approval of S.4158.
President and CEO
Retail Council of New York State