Weeks after Albany lawmakers threatened to prohibit New York (and other cities) from imposing a plastic bag fee, the City Council has voted to postpone its proposed 5-cent fee on plastic bags until February.
In May, Council Members had voted to enact fees beginning October 1st, passing a measure that wourld require stores to charge a nickel for each plastic and paper non-reusable bag. Supporters of the "bag tax" claimed it would reduce the city's annual plastic bag usage by 60 percent, cutting down on the roughly $12.5 million of public sanitation money used each year to dispose of wasted bags and curtailing their destruction of the Earth's oceans, atmosphere, and wildlife.
But all of that green goodwill ran up against Albany Democratic Senator Simcha Felder, who threatened state legislation that would make plastic bag fees illegal throughout New York. Felder, whose district comprises much of Brooklyn's Borough Park and Midwood neighborhoods, hawed to the Wall Street Journal that “New Yorkers do not like being manipulated, they do not like being aggravated and they do not need government to irritate them.”
Tuesday night's 38-11 vote to delay the bag fee until February 2017 is described by the Daily News as a peacekeeping deal struck between Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. City and state legislators will use the extra time to hammer out new language and terms for a citywide bag fee.
"It's not a defeat," Mark-Viverito told the tabloid, stressing that lawmakers will now try to "meet some of the concerns without basically diluting in any way the essence of the bill."
Bag fee detractors have largely argued a populist message. "This tax placed an undue financial burden on countless low and middle-income residents who already struggle," Felder said earlier this month.
During the Albany debate on potentially outlawing plastic bag fees, State Senator Liz Kreuger shot down these arguments. "Plastic pollution hurts low-income communities the most—that's why it's particularly disturbing that the bag industry continues to use low-income people as human shields to prevent any effective action." Across the country, plastic bag fees have successfully limited bag waste in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, with the financial burden falling primarily on bag manufacturers themselves.