From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
A group of Pullman residents has banded together to fight a proposed local tax on plastic bags. Since going online Monday, 27 signatures have been added to a petition organized by people opposed to a proposed 20-cent tax on plastic bags dispensed at stores throughout the city. The petition was developed in the name of Pullman Consumers for Choice, a group recently created by Businesses and Residents for Economic Opportunity co-founder Tom Forbes specifically to oppose the tax.
The petition claims the tax would hurt lower-income residents already battling high food costs, would negatively affect businesses and the local sales tax base because customers will shop outside Pullman, and would restrict consumer choice. Pullman resident Dwayne Dehlbom was the first to sign the petition.
“I hope it doesn’t pass. It’s another tax we don’t need,” he said. “Putting a tax on bags isn’t right. I just think there are better ways to do it than taxing bags if people are trying to make a point. ... I just think it’s a crock.”
The Pullman City Council received a proposal in early June endorsed by about 80 community members requesting that stores be required to charge the tax on plastic bags. The proposal indicated the nonbiodegradable petroleum bags are bad for the environment, and suggested people get into the habit of carrying reusable bags.
Councilman Bill Paul said he doesn’t support a bag tax at this time, but hopes for a lively discussion on the issue during an Aug. 26 meeting.
“It should be worth a discussion and make people more aware of the waste,” he said. “But we need to raise awareness. We need public input.”
Forbes said he hopes volunteers will soon begin to garner petition signatures outside of Pullman businesses. He also suggests letters to the mayor and council members opposing the tax, and encourages attendance at the meeting later this month.
Forbes said the proposed tax may be well-meaning, but it likely will cause more harm than good as reusable bags are an expense and it can be a hassle remembering to bring them to the store.
He also said it “doesn’t seem fair” to lower income and/or senior citizen residents in the community.
“When we go shopping for my family of six — if we do a large shopping trip — it would be nothing for us to fill up a basket and when we leave to have 20 or 30 plastic bags,” he said. “We were talking about that, and wow, (the tax) would add a lot of expense to our shopping bill. How are (the less affluent) people going to cope with this? How can they afford the reusable bag?”
Forbes also said the tax could overburden the already tender Pullman business economy. “It just really doesn’t seem like a good time for this. In essence, it becomes a food tax,” he said. “This is just going to be one more reason to shop elsewhere.”
“A lot of my shopping I already go to Idaho for anyway,” he said. “It would just be another excuse to not shop here.”
Proponents of the tax say it’s not a new idea. They point to the Seattle City Council, which recently approved a 20-cent tax for every plastic bag doled out by a grocery, drug or convenience store. San Francisco and communities throughout Alaska have banned the bags entirely, and China and Ireland have taken similar actions.
Forbes said he’s done his research and found that in Ireland, the ban reduced the free plastic bags by 90 percent, but as an “unintended consequence” the use of packaged, heavier plastic bags increased by 400 percent.
“That’s more plastic resin in the environment,” he said, noting that the proposed tax also may force more shoppers to use paper bags. “Paper bags use a lot more oil to make and transport. And if they’re made from trees, they emit more greenhouse gasses as they decompose. Paper bags end up being worse for the environment.”
Dehlbom said if a tax is approved, he’ll pay the cost rather than bring reusable bags. He said he uses the bags to pick up pet waste and other things outside of hauling groceries.
“I’d still use the bags,” he said. “I don’t care.”
Liz Siler, a member of the group who submitted the bag tax proposal, said she expected there would be some community opposition.
“I knew there would be people that would see it another way,” she said. “In all the places they’ve done taxes and different forms of control like this, there’s been opposition.
“People are free to have a different opinion, and I mean that sincerely,” she added. “But I’m confident that when people hear the reasoning behind our proposal, they’ll understand it’s a good idea.”
The petition can be viewed at www.ipetitions.com/petition/nopullmanplasticbagtax.