The New York State Senate will take up legislation today that would stop the implementation of a regressive tax on plastic bags slated to begin next month in New York City. The bill (S362), sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder, would prohibit the tax on each disposable plastic bag and prevent this bad deal from harming working- and middle-class New Yorkers.
Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said, “While the Senate is trying to find ways to make New York State more affordable, the City’s new tax does just the opposite and instead places an additional burden on families who are trying to make ends meet. I applaud Senator Felder for his tireless advocacy on this and other important economic issues, and encourage the Assembly to join us in passing this bill before the bag tax goes into effect in less than a month.”
Senator Felder, who has fought the plastic bag tax since his days as a New York City Councilman, said, “Many families have a hard time just getting by, paying for groceries, rent and heat, and now the Mayor wants to shake them down every time they shop just for the privilege of using a plastic bag. Mayor de Blasio, please do not nickel-and-dime New Yorkers with another tax. This will hurt lower- and middle-income families who already struggle. I'm asking New Yorkers to stand up and tell the Mayor that this bag tax has to go.”
New York City enacted legislation last year to create the five-cent tax paid by consumers when they need a disposable plastic bag to carry out their purchases. The measure was originally slated to go into effect in October. However, a state Senate hearing held earlier last year on the issue by Senator Felder and other legislators, followed by approval of a bill in the Senate prohibiting such taxes, and a resulting public outcry led the City to delay implementation until February 15, 2017.
The City Council’s law provides no new income to the government for recycling programs or other beneficial environmental initiatives, but rather returns the fees paid for bags back to the store. The bill’s sponsor admitted its goal was “irritating” New York City residents into changing their behavior.
Senator Felder’s legislation prohibits New York City from charging any taxes, fees, or local charges on carry-out merchandise bags in the City. If enacted, it would take effect immediately and prevent the impending five-cent-per-bag tax. Later today, the bill will be sent to the Senate’s Rules Committee, followed by action by the full Senate.
Significant issues about such taxes have been raised by a wide range of business and community leaders. Issues include the economic burden a bag tax could have on New York’s residents and businesses, especially low-income families; the potential for increased health risks due to cross-contamination of food when use of reusable bags replace disposable bags; and the environmental impact of replacing recyclable disposable bags with more permanent bag options.