Sunday, April 01, 2012

A self-defeating tax?

A couple of weeks back, the Champaign City Council supported a resolution to force retailers to charge for disposable plastic bags, about $0.05 per bag. Personally, I think this is a really bad idea in support of a laudable goal.

Sure, it's good to reduce waste and litter in our community. But the only way a tax like this would work is if the fee is large enough to actually cause people to change their behavior. I don't know about you, but five or six bags adding up to an extra $0.25 on my grocery bill isn't going to make me go out of my way. (I do normally use reusable bags, but occasionally forget to bring them.) Anything under a buck, maybe $0.50 isn't going to register on my radar.
But then I noticed this quote from the mayor:
I don't know where we get extra money for education, unless we charge five cents for plastic bags, I guess.
So if the point of this tax is not to change people's behavior, but to raise money, maybe the whole point of placing the per-bag fee so low is so that it doesn't cause people to change their behavior, raising the amount of revenue.
Or am I just being paranoid?

1 comment:

Dan said...

I thought the point of the tax was to alter behavior, too. The using it to fund education thing is a bit of a surprise. You're probably right that the tax is low enough that it won't have any effect on behavior. I wonder, though, will it raise all that much money either?