Local Wineries Vital To New York Economy

Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb
January 16, 2009

Today’s economic downturn has caused families and businesses in New York State to struggle more than ever to make ends meet. In spite of this, Governor David Paterson’s proposed state budget does nothing to help residents; rather, he attempts to pay-off a mounting state deficit by increasing their burden with 137 tax and fee hikes, while decreasing funding for essential services like healthcare and education. Raising taxes while slashing funding with complete disregard for the ramifications is simply reckless.

One action being taken by the Governor would jeopardize New York’s renowned wine industry, which generates over $3 billion in revenue for the state annually. The Executive Budget calls for the elimination of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation (NYWGF), which received $2.8 million from the state and matching grant funds of $1 million. This organization, headquartered in Canandaigua, is essential to the promotion and sale of New York wines nationally.

While eliminating essential funding that will help move wine off shelves, the Governor proposes an increase in the excise tax on wine from nearly 19 cents to 51 cents per gallon. In addition to this significant tax increase on wine, the Governor believes wine should be sold in local grocery stores, which could put some small liquor stores and wineries out of business.

As the Assembly representative for the Finger Lakes region, I understand the importance of local wineries to the economic stability of our region and all of upstate New York. The Governor’s proposal to cut funding for a successful organization that generates exponentially more revenue than the state’s investment – all while expecting wine producers to now pay even more out of their pockets and compete in large markets with wholesale wine – is nonsensical. I implore the Governor to reconsider this proposal as we continue with budget negotiations.

In order to make New York great again, we must invest in agribusinesses and other job creating entities that keep our economy afloat. I encourage residents to embrace and enjoy the vast resources New York has to offer including its wine. For more information on the NYWGF and New York’s successful wineries visit their Web site.

For more information on this important topic or to discuss any other state-related matter, contact me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 781-2030.