This came to me from a source at the Washington Post who occasionally feeds bloggers interesting items:
The Montgomery County Council approved a 5-cent bag tax Tuesday that will go into effect January 1, a move environmentalists hope will revive a stalled effort to pass a similar tax statewide. The tax will apply to paper and plastic bags at thousands of merchants. Among the few exceptions are paper bags from restaurants and pharmacy bags holding prescription drugs.
Officials say the tax will raise about $1 million a year, some of which will fund free reusable bags for the poor and elderly. The money will also help fund cleanups of streams and rivers, although backers expect bag use — and tax receipts — to drop quickly.
Sadly, all but one member of the MoCo County Council voted for the additional tax. The lone dissenter, Nancy Floreen, stated “It’s just another regressive tax that (adds) to the cost borne by our most vulnerable populations.” She’s right about that, and I’ll bet I’m right in asserting there will be jobs lost because of the tax, which won’t just apply to plastic bags but to paper as well. If you figure 8 to 10 plastic bags per grocery trip, it’s another 40 to 50 cents extracted from the pocket of MoCo shoppers.
I’ve already discussed the state’s most recent effort to enact a bag tax, and of course those tax sponsors were thrilled to see Montgomery County take the lead on the issue. They figured it would make it more likely the state will pass a similar measure, either in this fall’s Special Session or next year in the regular meeting.
While the stated aim of the tax is to reduce the amount of bags available to clutter up the landscape, it wouldn’t be a MoCo measure without a wealth redistribution effort, as part of the proceeds will go to securing cloth bags for the poor and elderly. Do the elderly get carts to carry these heavier, larger bags too?
This will be a boon for one group, though – grocers and retailers in areas close by Montgomery County. That’s why the push will be on to make this tax statewide; we can’t have people escape taxation by moving around to more advantageous locations for shopping. It may not raise nearly as much as the recently-passed alcohol sales tax or the proposed gasoline tax, but again government wants to reach into our wallets and essentially make a loser out of a politically incorrect industry which serves a need.
Don’t forget: our local government may be thinking about a different revenue grab than the nickel per hundred property tax debated Tuesday night. Speed cameras are on their agenda next month so let me remind you what they’re really looking for. It’s all about our Benjamins, baby.