WASHINGTON — The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. has withdrawn financial support for its joint state lobbying activity with the American Plastics Council, a victim of SPI's budget cuts and the ongoing squabble between the two groups.
Both Washington-based trade groups launched the effort to much fanfare in January 1997, claiming it would let the industry speak with one voice at the state and local level, an arena increasingly important to the industry's political and economic health.
But the failed merger talks between the two groups, SPI's financial troubles and the loss of business units and resin-company members at SPI in favor of APC appear to be taking a toll.
SPI had contributed $200,000 to the roughly $3 million budget of the state lobbying unit. That included the salary of one of its 16 staffers, whose job is being eliminated, plus a cash contribution.
While acknowledging that the split carries risk, Lew Freeman, SPI vice president of government affairs, played down the impact of SPI's decision.
SPI will continue to operate its own regional offices, which do not do lobbying work, and monitor state regulatory activity, he said. A lot of state work is regulatory, not legislative, Freeman said. He personally will assume responsibility for SPI state legislative interests, and meet regularly with APC officials, who offered to include Freeman in their meetings.
``Yes, there is a risk involved in any budget cut that reduces funding to any important program,'' Freeman said.
But with the exception of recycling bills in California, ``We have not been hit by a lot of anti-plastics legislation in the states.''
Roger Bernstein, APC vice president of state government affairs, said APC will continue to work with SPI and support the entire industry in its state affairs, not just APC resin manufacturers.
``We plan to work with our resin members and their processor customers, state-based plastic councils and all aspects of the plastics industry including SPI, to ensure that the industry's voice and strategic presence continue,'' he said.
He said APC's programs have involved more than 4,100 employees from 2,600 companies in grass-roots activities, including more than 100 plant tours and state capitol events. Participation in APC efforts is not limited to APC members, he said.
APC is hiring the laid-off SPI staffer, and does not think its efforts will be diminished, Bernstein said. APC will continue to have the same processors, including SPI members, sit on the committee overseeing the state lobbying unit, he said.
``I don't want to be in a situation where we are not receiving valuable input.''
SPI staff did not propose the funding cut, but SPI's board made the decision at its late-May meeting, Freeman said.
``It is a fiscal necessity. We didn't want them to be done, but we had budget targets to meet,'' he said.