Chicago’s new plastic bag tax goes into effect Feb. 1

Chicago’s new plastic bag tax goes into effect Feb. 1

The new tax on plastic bags is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest revenue grab.

Chicago consumers will see their grocery bills increase thanks to a new tax on certain grocery bags. This tax increase is just another way Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to nickel-and-dime Chicago residents to bridge gaps in the city’s budget.

Beginning Feb. 1, Chicagoans will pay a new 7-cents per bag tax on paper and plastic grocery bags as part of Emanuel’s 2017 budget. The tax will not apply to bags used to carry groceries purchased with food stamp benefits, or bags used to carry loose grocery items like produce and meat.

This new tax replaces an earlier city ordinance that banned chain stores and franchises from using standard thin plastic bags to carry groceries in, and required them to provide reusable bags instead. The ordinance also placed a fine of $100-$500 on any store that violated the ban.

This new bag tax will hit Chicagoans already overburdened with taxes. It will especially hurt low-income people who will be hit with increased grocery bills. What’s worse, this tax is one top of record-high new property tax hikesthe nation’s highest sales tax and various other taxes and fees that Chicago residents are already paying for.

In addition to being burdened with more taxes, unintended consequences of the plastic bag ban already were hurting consumers and businesses. In order to avoid the fine, businesses resorted to providing bags made of a thicker plastic that are considered reusable. The idea was that consumers can reuse a bag made of a thicker and more durable plastic, but there was no guarantee consumers would reuse these bags. Thus, instead of throwing away thin plastic bags, consumers could instead have been throwing away bags made of a thicker plastic. There is also research showing that using reusable bags could be hazardous to public heath because reusable bags, if not properly cleaned, could be carrying dangerous bacteria from raw meat and vegetables.

Chicago taxpayers need a taxpayer bill of rights to prevent politicians from unexpectedly raising any more taxes on them. Under a taxpayer bill of rights, the government would be restricted on how much revenue it can collect in a year, and would need to ask permission from voters before they raise taxes or introduce any new tax. In fact, if Chicago had a taxpayer bill of rights, the city government wouldn’t be able to impose a new plastic bag tax without getting voter approval via a referendum.

Adding more nickel-and-dime taxes only hurts Chicagoans’ pocketbooks. Chicago politicians need to look at real reforms to fix the city’s massive budget problems, instead of trying to suck more revenue out of over-taxed residents.

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