Va. legislators say no to bag tax
Virginia legislators have defeated a proposal aimed at curbing pollution and waste by imposing fees on the use of plastic bags, but bill sponsors are vowing to bring the issue up again next year.
A measure that would have required stores to charge customers a 5-cent tax on paper bags and disposable plastic bags died last week in a House of Delegates subcommittee after strong opposition from the retail and chemical manufacturers' lobbies.
"It might be dead this year, but I'll be back like a virus," said Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Highland Springs and a sponsor of one of the bills, which was combined with another measure. "I think it's something that really couldn't be more nonpartisan."
Del. Adam Ebbin, D-Arlington, said his legislation was an effort to encourage people to change their behavior to cut down on waste and benefit the environment. Shoppers who preferred disposable plastic bags could have opted to pay a nickel per bag.
"The consumers would have a choice and if they chose to use the throwaway bags, they'd pay a very small fee. So this is certainly a choice," Ebbin said.
Retailers would have retained a penny of each bag fee, or two cents if the stores offer customer bag-credit programs. The revenues raised by the fee would have gone to the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund.
Morrissey said people of all political persuasions are becoming increasingly concerned about plastic-bag litter.
"People are going to get behind this," he said. "It's sad we're not a leader in this."
Officials in the District approved a 5-cent disposable-bag tax that went into effect in January 2010. City officials estimate that before the fee, residents used about 270 million bags a year at grocery and convenience stores. The most recent figures showed that residents were on track to reduce usage to about 55 million bags, or about 80 percent fewer bags. Retailers, meanwhile, have told city officials they've cut down drastically on the number of bags they were buying.
The tax brought in a total of $1.9 million for cleanup of the Anacostia River in the first 10 months of 2010.
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