Rahm pushes for tax on plastic bags
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to add another layer to the city’s plastic bag ban – a 7-cent tax – despite the ban’s unintended, harmful consequences.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is once again looking for ways to nickel and dime Chicago residents to fill holes in the city’s budget. As part of his 2017 budget introduced Oct. 11, Emanuel is proposing adding a 7-cent tax on plastic bags used in the city. This is an extension of an ordinance that went into effect in 2015 that put restrictions on the use of plastic bags.
Under the first phase of this ordinance, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2015, chain stores and franchises over 10,000 square feet are banned from using standard thin plastic bags to carry groceries in, and are required to provide reusable bags instead. These requirements expanded to all chains and franchises within the city under the second phase of the ordinance, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2016. Any store that violates the ordinance could face a fine of $100-500.
The unintended consequences of the plastic bag ban have hurt business and consumers alike. In order to avoid the fine, businesses have resorted to providing bags made of a thicker plastic that are considered reusable. The idea is that consumers can reuse a bag made of a thicker and more durable plastic, but there is no guarantee consumers would reuse these bags. Thus, instead of throwing away thin plastic bags, consumers could instead be 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.
Chicagoans are overburdened with taxes. Chicago residents already are being hit with record-high new property tax hikes, the nation’s highest sales tax and various other taxes and fees. This new bag tax would also especially hurt low-income people who would be hit with increased grocery bills.
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, such as implementing pension reform and advocating for workers’ compensation reform.