Virginia Legislators Say No to Grocery Bag Tax

March 21, 2011

Though the Virginia General Assembly was unsuccessful in passing grocery bag taxes for environmental reasons, Arlington County officials are seeking federal support instead.

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), a proponent for the failed federal Plastic Bag Reduction Act in 2010, plans to reintroduce like legislation on Earth Day again this year.

Arlington County Board Member Barbara Favola, who supports the grocery bag tax, cited the success of the District’s bag tax by saying that there’s been a drop in the number of bags used, and tax revenue is dedicated to cleaning up the Anacostia River. Yet, just four months after enactment of the bag tax in DC, Mayor Fenty proposed raiding the $150,000 fund through an inter-governmental transfer in order to pay for general city services which were not necessarily related to any clean-up of the river.

Another problem with enacting bag taxes for environmental reasons is that much of the proposed legislation specifically singles out grocery bags, yet grocery bags are not the only bags that lead to pollution. In addition, other states have banned plastic bag usage all together; though extreme, such a regulatory approach removes any doubt in the minds of the taxpayers whether the motive is environmental improvement or revenue generation.

When speaking on the failed grocery bag tax legislation, Favola said “We didn’t really expect it to pass. We’re not unrealistic…we know it takes several years of education and information” to change people’s minds.

For more on bag taxes, check out this Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact .

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