Tonight, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly postponed action on a plastic bag tax ordinance until Dec. 5. Some Assembly Members said they wanted to allow the cities to engage retailers in an upcoming city meeting.
If passed, the proposed ordinance would tax retailers ten cents on each plastic bag handed out in the Borough by retailers that have annual gross sales of $1 million or more. Retailers who file properly may retain 20 percent of the excise tax. The tax cannot be directed to a specific use but intent language for investment in recycling can be included in the legislation.
Assembly Member Jim Sykes, of Lazy Mountain, said the ten cent range seemed to be a point that altered behavior and caused an 80 percent to 90 percent reduction in plastic bag use in places where it was levied. Sykes said we're already paying more than we need to by not saving space in the landfill.
For more than an hour several residents testified for and against the proposed excise tax. A plastic bag tax committee member said a survey received 1,500 responses with some 62 percent of respondents in favor of a plastic bag tax. A resident critical of the tax said the Borough has no business meddling with the market or with modifying behavior.
Legislation sponsor and Assembly Member Barbara Doty, a medical doctor, said the environmental health and safety issue caused by the plastic bags is the Borough's responsibility. She said the tax is designed to encourage responsible behavior by reducing the number of plastic bags used. The ordinance stated that the tax could reduce plastic bag use which in turn could reduce pollution in trees and creeks and could reduce ingestion of plastic by fish and animals.
Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos said the Borough's second class powers do not allow the banning of the bags but do allow a tax on the bags. A few Assembly Members agreed they would not mind banning the bags altogether rather than a tax.
Chair of the meeting, Assembly Member Randall Kowalke said he was not interested in a new tax coming to the Borough in this economic climate. He said he supports giving the cities a chance to deal with the issue.
Assembly Member Dan Mayfield said he hoped the cities worked hard to ban plastic bags. He said he did not want to vote in advance on the issue. He applauded the discussion.
Assembly Member George McKee voted to postpone the ordinance indefinitely in a vote that failed. McKee said the body cannot dictate that taxes will be used on a specific item.
The plastic bag tax ordinance returns before the Assembly on Dec. 5 at a regular meeting. The legislation is posted here. Doty voted no on delaying.