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New York Gov. Cuomo weighing options on NYC bag fee

Photo Courtesy of Kate Ter Harr, Flickr

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he's weighing his options when it comes to legislation that would prevent New York City from imposing a fee on non-reusable shopping bags.

The Legislature voted this week to overrule the city and postpone the fee until at least 2018. Cuomo said he hasn't decided whether he will sign or veto the measure. But his comments suggest the Democratic governor is sympathetic to critics who say the bag fee would be a burden on the poor and middle class.

"It's a complicated issue. There are real environmental concerns, but there are also economic concerns," he told reporters at an event in Schenectady. "You charge people 5 cents for every plastic bag; doesn't sound like much (but) it adds up."

City officials were poised to implement the fee later this month before lawmakers in Albany voted for the delay.

The fee, of a nickel or more, was to be imposed on any plastic or paper non-reusable shopping bag as a way to reduce litter and protect the environment. Shoppers using food stamps won't be charged the fee, and the city plans to distribute hundreds of thousands of reusable bags to help residents adjust to it.

Under the city's plan, merchants will keep the revenue from the fee.

Critics from both parties in the Legislature have said the city should have first considered expanded recycling efforts or other alternatives.