“Paper or plastic?” It’s a fairly innocuous question asked at checkout lines across the country. But here in Connecticut, that question may soon come with a price tag, as lawmakers consider adding a five-cent tax on all disposable shopping bags.
The “just say neither” trend is sweeping the nation. Cities including New York, Seattle and Philadelphia already charge a tax on plastic bags; and in September 2008, Westport became the municipality in Connecticut to enact an outright ban, imposing a $150 fine on shop owners that distribute disposable bags. A similar proposal to add a nickel-per-bag tax to Connecticut shoppers’ bills gained momentum in state Legislature this spring.
Those who endorse the plan say the bill would not only benefit the environment, but would also rake in upwards of $20 million to help fund environmental programs threatened by budget cuts.
Pressing budget issues are exactly why critics stand in opposition. The middle of a recession is no time to impose new costs on consumers, they say. Furthermore, a nickel may not be incentive enough for customers to rethink their habits. Among those opponents is Governor M. Jodi Rell, who says incentives to encourage the reuse of bags are preferable to any new tax.
The bag-tax bill will die without a General Assembly vote this year, but with the acclaimed success of Westport’s ban and the economy on the mend, legislators may reconsider the bill with more enthusiasm next year …
CANDIDATES ON PLASTIC BAG BAN:
Jayme Stevenson (R)
I don’t think I am in favor of a ban on plastic bags. I am in favor of educating the community on the importance of using recyclable bags or reusing their plastic bags. I guess this is where my Republican philosophy comes out; I’m not in favor of imposing more rules and regulations. But I am an environmentalist at heart, and I do try and use my own recyclable bags whenever I got to the grocery store and hope that’s a good model for those who don’t yet do that.
David Bayne (D)
I would be in favor of looking into ways for the Town to do more to promote the use of recyclable bags: to do something on a website, to encourage merchants to encourage their customers to use recycled bags, to be more proactive in educating people to not use plastic bags. But I think it’s simply too intrusive to have an outright ban.
Jerry Nielsen (D)
I’m not in favor of banning plastic bags, but we all have to be conscious of the environment and we all have to be encouraged to recycle. I was on vacation at a place where you go to the dump and everything is recycled: the newspapers, the plastics—everything, all down the line; and there’s someone actually there policing that. I’m not saying we go to that extreme, but we all have to be conscious of our environment and recycle when we can.
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