Seattle Grocery Bag Tax Will Go to Voters

October 16, 2008

Image courtesy First Friday Collective

Opponents of Seattle’s 20 cent tax on plastic bags have gathered enough signatures to force a public vote on the measure, probably in August 2009. The tax had passed in July and was scheduled to take effect January 1, 2009.

I’m glad this charge is being called a “tax” because that’s what it is. I’m still unsure as to whether the 20 cent tax represents the actual cost to society (which is the valid justification for imposing an excise tax higher than taxes on other goods), or whether it’s just an attempt to shape people’s behavior in a way that politicians prefer.

Back in June, we covered two criticisms: first, that the tax is non-neutral since it only applies to grocery bags and not bags given by other retailers; and second, it amounts to a regressive tax on food that is otherwise exempt from the sales tax.

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