Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bag Tax Proposed by Arlington Village State Rep

Your thoughts? This blogger is against the tax. It hits the poor the hardest and means more of our hard earned money goes to the government.

Ebbin to propose statewide ‘bag tax’
By Austin Danforth

While the District adjusts to its recently enacted 5-cent tax on shopping bags, state representatives in Maryland and Virginia are finalizing drafts of similar bills for the start of the 2010 legislative sessions next week.In Virginia, Adam Ebbin (D-49), one of Alexandria’s three members of the House of Delegates, champions the proposed bill, which calls for a nickel tax on single-use paper and plastic shopping bags at “food, drug, liquor and convenience stores,” he said.“This bill is different [from previous years] because there are incentives for businesses, for folks to collect money from the small fee,” Ebbin said Wednesday. “It’s not a ban, it’s a consumer choice.”

Like the new D.C. law, the tax would benefit environmental cleanup efforts to the tune of either three or four cents per bag, Ebbin said, with businesses keeping one or two cents of the fee “depending upon whether they offer customers a carry-out bag credit program for reusable bags.”

Proceeds from the bag tax across the Potomac go directly to work cleaning up the Anacostia River, but in Virginia the funds from the proposed bill would go to the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund, Ebbin said.

Maryland Delegate Alfred Carr (D-18) is introducing the bill there and said Wednesday that he’s “in solidarity with Delegate Ebbin” because “environmental problems like this transcend political boundaries and it’s important that we work together as a region to address them.”

“The pollution from plastic bags in the streams and waterways is the fourth-most prevalent form of pollution behind cigarettes, food wrappers and plastic beverage bottles,” Ebbin said.

Former Alexandria City Council member Tim Lovain, a proponent of bag regulation while behind the dais, said he became focused on the issue after hearing from members of the Cousteau Society who informed him of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” located in the heart of the planet’s biggest ocean.

“I really appreciate Delegate Ebbin’s enthusiasm on this and his innovative ideas,” Lovain said, “especially, if you can say the money from the fees are going to a certain environmental purpose like that, it makes it a little easier for people to accept.”

Mentioning the willingness of businesses like IKEA and Whole Foods in reducing disposable bag usage, Lovain said, “It’s not like the merchants are all dead-set against it. There’s some resistance, but it’s certainly a trend that’s happening around the country.”

Additionally, Ebbin said, the five-cent fee on paper and plastic carry-out bags would likely save taxpayers’ money in cleanup efforts — the measure has a history of greatly reducing bag usage — as well as cut costs for retailers when it comes to stocking plastic and paper bags.

In Alexandria, shoppers also agreed that Ebbin’s proposed 5-cent tax would benefit a worthy cause.“I think it’s a good idea for environmental reasons and because of the economy and its effect on business,” said Lee Lynch, an Alexandria resident shopping with her two young sons in Del Ray.

“From a personal perspective it has made me change my mind about getting a bag, like yesterday when I got my lunch,” she said. “But from a family perspective we actually depend on the plastic bags for a variety of things so I’d pay the 5 cents. It wouldn’t bother me at all.”


Anonymous said...

I'm for the tax!!

Plastic bags are the second worst pollutants, and your notion that it hurts the poor is a phony asertion.

A nickle a bag is going to break anyone's budget; including the poor.


Canvas Callie said...

I'm all for it. Plastic bags are awful. People--poor, not poor-- have tote bags at home they can use, c'mon.

Adam Ebbin said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

In terms of money to the government, it really is a voluntary fee. If people don't want to pay, all they need to do is use a permanent bag. My goal is to influence people's minds, not get into their wallets. If the legislation is a true success, we will collect less and less money as consumers become more environmentally supportive.

In DC, grocery and drug stores gave out tens of thousands of bags as the program started with many going to poorer residents. I am hopeful that we could work with grocery chains to distribute bags and then to continue distributing bags to food stamp recipients and seniors at no cost.

As your representative to state government, I welcome your thoughts on how we can amend and perfect my legislation. Feel free to write to me directly at

Adam Ebbin
Member, House of Delegates

AV Resident said...

Thank you, Rep. Ebbin, for logging on and sharing your thoughts. It is greatly appreciated by your constitutents. I don't necessarily agree that a bag tax is the right approach to this problem, but at least your thinking of ideas and representing your consitituents well. Given the district we live in, I am certain you will have more people who agree with you than do not.

Anonymous said...

DC's tax is designated to clen up the Anacostia River, and that's something we can all agree on. However, does anyone really believe that the money will go for that, and not just fall into the giant sink hole that is the DC budget? Also, how is the tax being collected? Street vendors are supposed to collect the tax just like grocery stores, but the fact is they aren't. Is it really going to be enforced?

Also, from the Washington Post, an article showing that apparently a lot of people didn't gert their free bags.

Finally, I'm sure Delegate Ebbin is confident he can work with grocery store chains, becasue 2 cents of his 5 cent tax goes back to the stores themselves. This is nothing more that a flat out payoff to keep the grocery stores from opposing his bill. Just as they did in DC.

If Delegate Ebbin wants money to clean up the enviroment, I would hope he could focus his efforts on going to Richmond, and bringing back more than the 33 cents Northern Virginia currently sees for every tax dollar we send down there.

Katie said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: politics and neighbors don't mix. This is a silly issue to bring up on a community blog. Why not rename your blog--leaving Arlington Village out of it-- if you want to get up on a soap box?

Andy said...

This is something that impacts Arlington Village and Virginia residents. The Virginia legislature is in session and like it or not what they do will impact you. You can ignore it (and politics) but in a democracy it will not go away.

If you do not want to talk politics than don't comment on posts that discuss them. The Blogger is discussing something that I find important and interested in reading as a local resident. I get tired of the "oh, new businesses opening" posts.

cleavers44 said...

This is definitely a worthy issue to discuss in the AV blog. I live on the north end of Barton Street, and frequently see discarded plastic bags on the ground, or caught in trees and shrubs.

I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the bag tax proposal, but I do think it will be effective.

Anonymous said...

Why not propose something like a bottle deposit. When we bring those bags back to the store and turn them in, give us five cents back. I bet people would pick up the trash!

Anonymous said...

Hey Cleavers, you're on the north end of Barton Street? No wonder you see plastic bags everywhere, that's where all the poor people live...