Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Juneau Assembly Punts Proposed 15 Cent Plastic Bag Tax To The Voters In The October Election; Initial Public Sentiment Negative

On August 8th, 2011, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly decided to punt a proposed 15 cent plastic bag tax back to the voters. Mayor Bruce Botelho said that punting the measure allows those on both sides of the issue to argue their cause in public forums and to let the voters. Thus the proposed bag tax will join a proposed five-year extension of Juneau's existing 3 percent temporary sales tax beyond its current July 2012 sunset date on the October municipal ballot. Some are already saying it could be an expensive election for taxpayers -- if voters approve both measures.

The initiative seeks approval of a 15-cent tax on each plastic shopping bag used from certain retailers to bag customer orders. It would apply to all large retailers which have annual gross incomes of $15 million or more. There would be an exemption for those who have CBJ (City & Borough of Juneau) senior citizen identification. Capital City Weekly reports that an advocacy group called Turning The Tides is behind the proposed bag tax.

-- Read the proposed sales tax extension (Ordinance 2011-17) HERE
-- Read the proposed bag tax (Ordinance 2011-19) HERE

Opposition is present and growing. On August 7th, the Juneau Empire editorially denounced the proposed bag tax. Their objections:

-- No incentive for anyone but the most economically disadvantaged to bring their own bags to the store.
-- A possible burden on businesses during very tough times.
-- Creates a two-tier tax system.

The Juneau Empire recommends voters "soundly reject" the proposal if it gets to the ballot.

Smart move by the Assembly to punt the issue to the voters. They learned from the mistakes of the Fairbanks-North Star Borough when its Assembly passed a five cents bag tax over the heads of the voters in 2009. There was a huge outcry of protest -- and the Fairbanks Assembly was forced to rescind it. One of the primary sponsors, Assemblywoman Nadine Winters, came within a whisker of losing her seat to the unheralded Joshua Lott in the October 2009 election, and the other primary sponsor, Luke Hopkins, about-faced and ran away from it like a scalded cat barely in the nick of the time to get elected Borough Mayor. But he still needed a runoff win over Tammie Wilson to get it done.

The next question -- will the Borough be smart enough to float each initiative separately, or stupid enough to combine them? If they combine them, the bag tax could drag the sales tax extension down to defeat as well. Better to separate them -- the sales tax extension seems to have a chance to pass.

Initial public sentiment expressed as comments to both Empire stories is predominantly unfavorable (after the jump):

By JNUKara | 08/08/11 - 10:02 am:
As I stated previously - I never wanted plastic bags. Nor do I remember a big hue and cry for plastic bags - the Juneau merchants choose what sort of bags they use in their store - and they chose plastic. Now they want to charge us for the merchant's choice - maybe they should go back to paper bags.....simple solution. I recycle ALL my plastic bags. I try to remember my reusable ones. In fact - I took my reusable bags to the store on Sat. and while I was packing my groceries that were piling up because the checker was ringing them up faster, since she didn't have to pack the groceries herself, I was getting dirty looks from the people in line. I guess it seems I was holding up the line while trying to pack my groceries.....can't win.

By ggcrackers | 08/08/11 - 11:15 am:
In addition to the various and sundry jobs I have held, I once was responsible for hiring and training new checkers and courtesy clerks for a supermarket, and I have worked at a local store as a checker as well.

It is much faster to bag groceries in plastic then it is to use paper and reusable bags. If customers want double bags, plastic wins again--paper bags will tear if not properly doubled. The plastic bags feed out of a rack partially open, as opposed to having to spend time reaching for paper and then opening it, before placing it down to be used. The plastic bags are also supported by a frame, making it easy to put items in them and when reusable bags get old they lose shape and one hand often has to be used for support rather than bagging.

Plastic bags help keep grocery costs down, and most checkout stands in the grocery stores in town are set up for plastic and would have to be retrofitted for paper and reusable bags--cost to be borne by customers.

If you want to have slow service at the check out, by all means support this initiative. If you want to retain faster trips to the store and adult freedoms, then oppose it.

By Atam Gits | 08/08/11 - 01:26 pm:
1) Google reusable shopping bags and what happens when somebody takes their chicken home in their reusable bags one time and fresh produce the next. If you don't sanitize your bags in between uses you could give your family salmonella AND KILL THEM. How much energy and water is going to be wasted washing, drying, and sanitizing reusable bags?

Some doctors refer to reusable shopping bags as "Salmonella Sacks" or "E. Coli Carriers". Are the tax dollars created by this proposed tax going to pay for medical treatment of the consequences of enacting this tax?

2) I just sourced plastic bags in the internet, I can buy them in bulk for .03 cents each (price includes shipping). I will sell them in Juneau for .05 cents each! You will be able to bring your own PATHOGEN FREE PLASTIC BAGS to the store and save .10 per bag compared to this DANGEROUS ridiculous intrustion into our freedom of choice. I will bag your bags into a paper bag so this tax won't get a penny from me. Or you.

3) This tax would cost our family $120.00 per year. We recycle ALL our plastic bags yet this proposed tax is going to punish us anyway?

You wouldn't ask your doctor to start reusing syringes, why would you reuse a shopping bag that might have salmonella, campylobacter, e. coli, leptospirosis, etc inside it?


By NoDoubt | 08/08/11 - 10:17 am:
Where does it end? CBJ is becoming Juneauites "Big Brother" and wants to tax citizens on every little thing they don't like--tobacco tax, plastic bag tax, where's the "fat tax?" And what exactly will CBJ do with this extra tax income--use it to pay their AEL&P bill because their increase wasn't budgeted and they have a short-fall?

I am against this tax; it's downright ridiculous. Concerned citizens railed against paper bags because it was killing trees which brought forth the plastic bag; now they rail against plastic bags. Next they'll find a reason to be against reusable bags.

Costco quit selling their large reusable bags--I've been asking since last fall and have been told they're "redesigning" the bag and are not available. I wouldn't mind buying their large reusable bags since I'm not thrilled about breaking down their extremely sturdy boxes after shopping and I could use them at other stores since I have a large family and volume shop for groceries. However, I don't think it's right to go after the large stores only--if you're going to create a plastic bag tax, it should be applied across the board.

As for the 3% temporary tax; who does CBJ think their kidding? This "temporary" tax has been in place forever, why don't they just make it permanent?

By Calypso | 08/08/11 - 10:22 am:
"More than a dozen bans in California have been met by lawsuits filed by plastics companies, contending their product was being discriminated against."

Calling all lawyers. Why is it okay to discriminate against only large retailers? And why will seniors be exempt? How 'bout you're exempt if you have 2 or more kids? Discrimination everywhere?

15 cents sounds pretty hefty. Most other places charge 5 cents, it appears.

Turning The Tides is behind this.

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