October 24, 2012 - 12:56 PM
By Tom Precious
ALBANY – New York’s first official Booze Summit is over after two hours – well, except for the tasting gathering at the governor’s mansion this afternoon – and beer, wine and liquor industry representatives gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo a long list of suggestions to expand the state’s alcohol industry.
The ideas were hardly new: open up more ways for upstate producers to get into the New York City marketplace, lower taxes, sell more New York-made beer and wine at the annual State Fair, provide marking help for agricultural/alcohol tourism. But they served as a roadmap for some steps Cuomo might be taking in the coming legislative session.
The beer, wine and spirits gathering, following in the footsteps of this summer’s yogurt summit; yes, state officials are still, straight-faced, using the words "yogurt" and "summit" in the same sentence.
Others now want their own special day, too. The gathering today in Albany, though, spawned a new request from the state’s natural gas industry that Cuomo hold a summit on the issue of hydrofracking. Given the stakes and battles on that topic, such a session might not go so easy for the governor, who was constantly thanked by the alcohol industry representatives today. Indeed, some wine and beer representatives who also happen to be opposed to any state effort to permit hydrofracking set up a protest outside the booze summit.
Lawmakers and Cuomo this year already passed a number of measures to boost everything from production of hops and barley to tax breaks for certain sectors of the industry. Cuomo, in opening the gathering, noted how sharply the number of facilities like microbreweries and farm distilleries has soared the past two years since he has taken office.
"Is there a connection between my (being) governor and people drinking? I don’t know, but if they’re drinking more New York product, great. I’m happy," Cuomo said.
Cuomo noted the obvious tax revenue benefits for his administration, which is facing another large projected deficit in next year’s budget, from an expanding New York state alcohol industry. "We have a percentage of your business, as I’m sure you know … So we are in business together and we want to grow the business," he told the group.