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Bag ‘em, Danno; Maryland moves to tax the sack

It's a revenue grab

March 15, 2013

During the interminable tenure of Governor Martin O’Malley and more specifically, the current crop of General Assembly varmints, residents of the Fee State have been asked to pay for the ever-expanding ogre known as state government in more ways than Lindsay Lohan finds to get arrested.
And now that the brilliant minds nestled in Annapolis have slapped a tax on all but the air we breathe – The Inhale/Exhale Excise Act won’t be introduced until 2014 – they’ve decided to go after your grocery bags.

Of course, taxing everything under the sun (and the moon and the stars and the clouds and the planets) is not a new concept for the socialist utopia known as Montgomery County. And like nearly every other bit of bad legislation foisted upon the rest of this state, this ridiculous enviro-gesture was birthed in the bowels of Maryland’s own Berkeley-wannabe. While there are plenty of cities, towns and municipalities with bag bans and fees already in place, the Annapolis Greenies would make Maryland the first state to have such a ban.

If passed, the “Community Cleanup and Greening Act” (HB 1086 crossfiled with SB 576) would impose a 5-cent charge on all disposable plastic and paper bags doled out by retailers.

If there were ever an honest debate on the floor of either Assembly chamber – and let’s face it: honest and Assembly are two words you won’t often find in the same sentence – then our elected clods would first explain the reasoning behind the inclusion of paper bags and then address the junk science that has lead them to this eco-idiocy.

See, the global warm-and-fuzzies will point to how ‘effective’ this bag nonsense has been in other locales – like D.C. and the aforementioned Moonbeam County – in order to tax your sack.

Get your minds out of the gutter, people; discussion on that potential revenue source begins in earnest in 2015.

The measure, sponsored on the senate side by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D – Montgomery) and in the house by Del. Michael Summers (D – Prince George’s) and Del. Mary Washington (D – Baltimore City), is based on D.C.’s Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act, which was intended to reduce the number of disposable bags used by us earth-killing grocery shoppers.

And if one looks at a study by the District Department of the Environment then one would be left with the feel-good notion that these toothless efforts are designed to evoke. According to a DDE chart (found here), there has been a decrease in the number of bags ‘trapped’ in the Anacostia River in the years since the Montgomery County bag fee was implemented.

However, the DDE also points out that the bag fee didn’t bring immediate results, blaming the lack of a bag fee/ban in Prince George’s County; the amount of time it takes for litter to go from neighborhood streets to local streams; and naturally, the stupidity of us water-polluters who do not understand the intricacies of compliance.

Don’t you just love how their bad ideas are only bad because we the people are too dumb and ignorant to understand their bad ideas?
But if one also looks at additional studies – and therein lies that pesky honest debate thing – then it’s as plain as the restaurant menus lodged in one’s neighborhood sewer that getting rid of plastic bags (or taxing them) causes barely a blip in the long-term solution of eliminating plastic waste.

Another study the Beaver Huggers (Tree Eaters?) like to present is one by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, wherein an itemized list of garbage collected in 2011 contained 26,624 plastic bags.

An impressive number, no doubt, but when compared to the nearly 200,000 recyclable beverage containers gathered at the same time it’s rather obvious what the study uncovered: the bottle makers have a much better lobby than the bag manufacturers!

In all – and including more than 2,000 discarded tires – 11,000 volunteers pulled 228 tons of trash from 288 sites within the D.C. watershed, but taxing the sacks will save the planet.

“It is dramatically reducing the litter and pollution and the landfills, and people are adjusting their behavior to it,” Raskin told lawmakers, knowing full well his words were no more than barnyard patchouli.

In addition, and much like other efforts unleashed by these so-called champions of the poor and middle class, the bag tax will cause added economic hardship for those who can least afford it.

“I have always been opposed to the bag tax,” said Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore), “not because of the grocery stores or plastic bag manufacturers. . . but because of knowing what it is like to have to subtotal every item to see if you have enough to buy another item.”
But the Greenies can’t be bothered by what the poor and middle class can afford to eat – a stance fortified each and every day via each and every regressive tax they impose on lower income families.

If a 5-cent charge will prove to be so effective, why not go with a 10-cent, 25-cent or even a dollar fee per bag?

Why not add a fee to the bags we use for produce? Why not add a charge to our fast food take-out containers? What about an environmental stipend from beer and soda cans and glass bottles? The Ferguson study reported that the most popular brand names found in their garbage haul were Budweiser, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Corona. Why not tax litterbug Marylanders for crappy beer choices?

Because they would never get such horrid legislation passed with such outrageous charges attached; your Annapolis brain trust would rather wait and jack the fee after the bill becomes law. And they wouldn’t dare take on the lobbyists that represent the biggest corporate trash-makers because it would affect future campaign contributions.

In the end, this fee is all about the revenue and has nothing to do with the environment – just like gun control has nothing to do with public protection; just like speed and red light cameras have nothing to do with transportation safety; and just like Gov O’Malley’s wind farms have nothing to do with renewable energy.
Maryland’s General Assembly meets for 90-days every year with only two things in mind: growing government and taking your money to use as the fertilizer.
And the folks in Annapolis would never consider taxing manure – the cost of the piles of it in the senate and house chambers would be astronomical.

Categories: Must Read, Opinion, Policy, Regulation
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