Put a Cork in This Tax

New York State has seen a growth in small vineyards, wineries and cafes in recent years, including right here in Rensselaer County. Unfortunately, new state legislation proposed during the last few weeks could undo much of that progress.

Many small-scale distributors of specialty, boutique or limited run wines currently store wine in areas outside of New York State before transporting the wine to stores and establishments. Legislation proposed by State Senator Jeff Klein could change that, requiring wine to be warehoused in New York State for 48 hours before sale.

What is known as the “Cork Tax” or At-Rest legislation has many small business owners, including smaller distributors and owners of bars and cafes, very concerned. They note the legislation could cause significant increases in prices for consumers of wine, along with reducing the array of wine offerings. Troy businessman Vic Christopher, who with his wife Heather owns the popular Charles F Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar on Second Street in downtown Troy, has been part of the movement against the Cork Tax.

While the possible detriments of the proposed legislation are quickly pointed out by opponents of the Cork Tax, the benefits to the public are less easily revealed. What exactly is the public benefit, particularly to health and safety, from requiring wine to be warehoused in this state for 48 hours? What is the benefit to business, particularly small distributors and bars and cafes?

Answers as to the benefits of the Cork Tax are much tougher to come by. There is also the nagging suspicion this law will best serve only a handful of large-scale distributors, all at the cost of consumers and small businesses. Without clear answers to these questions, there is no reason for the state to move forward with this legislation.  

The Rensselaer County Legislature will be weighing in on the proposed Cork Tax at our March 11 meeting, with a resolution opposing the tax. If adopted, the resolution will be added to the growing chorus of those opposing the proposed state legislation.

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