Pennsylvania Mulls First Statewide Plastic Bag Tax In The U
Paper or plastic? It’s an every day question. But it’s one that will have an impact on your wallet if Sen. Daylin Leach (D) of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, gets his way.
Sen. Leach has, according to his website, reintroduced a bill “that would encourage consumers to shift away from using inefficient plastic shopping bags by imposing a $0.02 fee for each bag provided by a retail establishment.” It is, simply, a plastic bag tax.
The bill, SB 1080: Plastic Bag Tax, was introduced on August 6, 2013. If it passes, it would be the first statewide tax on plastic bags; to date, only local governments, including those in Seattle and Washington, have pushed through similar bills. A proposal in Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia, failed a few years ago. The country’s largest city, New York City, also failed to push a bag tax through a few years ago but Mayor Bloomberg (I) is trying again this time with a 10 cent tax directed back to retailers. And currently, eight other states are considering a similar tax: Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Efforts failed on similar legislation in Florida and Maryland.
Under Sen. Leach’s plan, a 2 cent per plastic bag tax would be imposed on plastic carryout bags provided at the point of sale. Of the 2 cents, one penny would be kept by retail establishments “to improve their internal recycling practices” while the other penny would be returned to the Commonwealth to fund state recycling programs.
Sen. Leach said, about the tax, “[t]wo cents is a small price to pay for a cleaner, more vibrant pl fake rolex anet.” He cited a statistic that, if true, would definitely shore up the “small price to pay” part of his speech:
Currently, the average American family uses 60 plastic bags in just four trips to the grocery store.
At fifteen bags per trip, that works out to thirty cents. Those kind of dollars or, I guess, cents won’t break the bank. But the “small price to pay” might also not be effective: studies generally indicate that taxes need to hit a certain pain level to change behavior.
Sen. Leach is right, however, to be concerned about the number of plastic bags in the environment. According to the Clean Air Council, every year, Americans use approximately 102.1 billion plastic bags. Less than 1% of those bags are recycled each year.
I’ll come clean: I occasionally use plastic bags at the store. While I make the effort to use our canvas and cloth bags whenever we can or else my 11 year old will rail on me about killing the planet I’ll admit that, on days like today when I was running into the pharmacy to snatch up a prescription, cold meds and some Zanfel, I forgot my bag. I took the plastic bag they handed me.
To be fair, we reuse those plastic bags as much as possible at our house. Reuse tends to be a better use of resources than recycling and we’ve come up with a myriad of ways to reuse bags (though not nearly as cool as what these folks can do).
I do love the idea of reducing our collective use of plastic bags. I agree that it’s a terrible waste to use a bag once and toss it. And I know that most plastic bags don’t biodegrade. And I know they litter our cities and our oceans. And I understand that they are not good for the planet.
But bad behaviors no matter what our legislators are constantly trying to tell us don’t always merit a tax. Why is it, then, that we always focus on bad behaviors as revenue raisers? Sen. Leach, however, claims that this tax is not about the money. Unlike Russian Finance Minster Alexei Kudrin, who encouraged people to smoke and drink in order to boost the economy, Sen. Leach insists the tax is about changing behavior, saying, “our goal is not to collect the fee, but to encourage shoppers to make sustainable choices at the checkout counter.” He may have learned a little something from those that have gone before him.
In Seattle, voters went to booths more than once before approving a bag tax. The tax, effective July 1 of last year, goes further than a tax: it bans thin, single use plastic shopping bags. Retail stores must charge customers a minimum of five cents for paper bags and show all bag charges on customer receipts; none of the tax goes to the government directly since the stores keep the revenue. However, because the charge is a taxable retail sale, it is subject to Seattle’s business tax.
Initially in Seattle, voters had firmly rejected a bill to tax both plastic and paper shopping bags. That measure would have required retailers to tack on an additional 20 cent tax per bag. Just before voters had their say, a poll indicated a slight majority, 51%, of voters opposed the tax despite evidence that an overwhelming majority of Seattle residents (90%) regularly recycled or reused plastic bags. I wondered, at the time, whether it wasn’t so much about opposing the usage of bags but being taxed on that usage. Noting the dramatic reduction of the tax bite in the final bill (20 cents per bag to 5 five cents per bag), that appears to be the case. voters approved a controversial 5 cent tax on carryout bags at grocery stores, drug stores, and retail food establishments. officials crowed about the revenue that it brought in: $150,000 in the month of January alone. While those numbers were welcome, they were, by my calculations, a bit off. To generate the $10 million over the next four years they hoped for, they’d have to collect $210,000 in tax per month; that meant that collections were already down by nearly 30% in the first month. Office of Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) reported that the bag tax raised $1.5 million in nine months of Fiscal Year (FY) 2010; $1.8 million in FY 2011 and $975,000 in the first five months of FY 2012 (report downloads as a pdf). Those numbers are well below expectations. officials was to change behavior. In 2009, about 22.5 million disposable bags were being given away each month; in January 2010, just 3 million bags were distributed a nearly 88% decline in one month. A subsequent analysis, however, claimed those numbers were skewed a bit high and would eventually correct due to the “rebound effect” in which paper and plastic bag use would increase after folks get used to the tax. Regardless, the tax has clearly made an impact on behavior.
And that’s where th fake rolex e PA bag tax, as proposed by Sen. Leach, is better than most. bag tax, predicated on the idea that funds would be earmarked for a specific use (Anacostia River Clean Up Fund), the PA bag tax is allegedly targeted not for revenue purposes but for behavioral change. As with all sin taxes, if efforts to change the behavior are successful, the revenue stream connected to the tax will significantly decrease. However, since PA isn’t counting on that revenue, that’s not a real worry.
But if the plan is to push the tax based on curbing behavior and not raising revenue, we should question how we make people feel about those choices. Sin taxes and that’s what this is, really are so polarizing. They become a matter of extremes. As a matter of policy, the question of supporting the bag tax has become, “Do you care about the environment?” Only, from a policy stance, that’s not the right question. A better question might be “Is this the best solution to the problem?” As state and local governments across the country hash the arguments out, I guess we’ll see.
The Republic of Ireland imposed a plastic bag tax of 0.15 in March 2002. The charge is now at 0.22 per bag. The first effect of this was to clean up the environment people had been flinging bags willy nilly and the landscape was blighted. The second effect was to spawn the durable bag industry. I think all of us now probably have at least a dozen large ish, heavy duty carrier bags (which come in handy for tons of things other than groceries). The third effect was to keep people aware and deciding if they really want a plastic bag. I think it was a very good thing and yes, we’re in recession here but it was not the bag tax that did it. (Nor will an increase in the bag tax fix it!)
China has had a 5 cent s tax since the Bejing Olympics. It should be at 20 cents in the USA and while at it lets make a federal state and local tax so we can create 10,000 new jobs to over see the collection of taxes and compliance reviews. It is a great “sin” tax to change behavior and all taxes are to an extend used to modify behavior. They only work when well t fake rolex hought out and forget the “save” the planet answer on the poll. The real benefit besides a small drop in pollution is the huge reduction in oil which would benifit the entire economy at least for the working class as oil prices affect everthing we do. Of course I am sure government will find another way to slice into the pie I make with some new regulation when it suits them so instead of “inflation” taking my money it is the government
What many people fail to realize while standing on their soapboxes, is that an all out ban on plastic bags is not only useless, but it is a job killer. I have been in the packaging industry my entire l fake rolex ife. Do you know that 0% of all reusable non woven bags (which are made from plastic) are made overseas? I should know, I sell them for a living. There is an enormous supply chain connected to the production of plastic bags. 1000s of jobs can be potential lost. The next time you are at you local supermarket, take a good hard look at all the items on the shelves, wrapped, packed, stacked, capped, labeled and lined with plastic. There is FAAAR more plastic items being put into that thin flimsy plastic sack, than the physical bag itself. One 2 liter soda bottle contains enough plastic resin for 5 plastic bags. HB76 / SB76 also abolishes the current debilitating; antiquated public school funding system that turns tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families into bankrupt homeless dependents on the remaining taxpayer’s dime. taking the gun away from home and business property owners’ heads and instead raising the state sales tax by .01 and the PIT (personal income tax) from 3.07% to 4.34% is going to hurt “The Poor”.
I reminded Senator Leach that according to the HHS (U. S. Dept of Health and Human Services), I and my family are living under the poverty level even though we’ve been working hard all our lives, and happen to “Own” a home.
So, here we are, with him advocating for a bill to add a new tax onto the backs of all Pennsylvanians. Whose this tax going to hurt? Small business owners and “The Poor” in favor of this new tax?
Besides calling for an up to 200% tax on the product, this proposal is dangerous to human health. If David was interesting in protecting the planet he would propose a law to stop the sale and use of reusable shopping bags with non perishable products. Safe light weight plastic bags break down quickly in landfills and the environment. This is the least of our environmental problems. Placing such a heavy tax on them will push people to use less ecological paper bags and potentially dangerous reusable shopping bags. Think it through David!
Senator Leach (appropriate name) is totally out of touch with what is going on in PA. I left home in 1973, joined the Navy and saw the world as Pittsburgh died and continues to do so today.
After working in two other continents and returning to the USA in 2006 after a second career as an engineer overseas, I see what PA needs is a punting of these lawyers and politicians with a growth and job creating IQ below bean dip and fast.
Plastic bags explain how that helps to create jobs, Sen. Leach? And how much more can you tax the elderly to make up for years of mismanagement and unprofessional leadership in the state capitol.