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Leggett pushes bag tax for MontCo

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Local,Maryland,Brian Hughes
Another jurisdiction in the Washington area is on the verge of charging residents for using paper and plastic bags. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett on Monday proposed a nickel tax on such items at retail locations.

The proposal mirrors a similar law in the District, but unlike its neighbor, the bill applies to virtually all stores and not just those that sell food.

Leggett previously vowed that he would not raise taxes on county residents -- after passing steep energy and cell phone tax hikes this year -- but told The Washington Examiner that because the charge is largely avoidable, he is not breaking that pledge.

"If you don't want to pay the fee, get a reusable bag," he said. "It's that simple. It's not revenue enhancement. It's not like it's filling county coffers."

The county estimates the tax, slated to go into effect in 2012, would generate roughly $1.5 million next year for water and litter clean up. The county spent $3 million on such efforts last year, officials said.

Leggett cited a drop in bag usage in the District as proof that such legislation changes consumer habits -- and ultimately clears pollution from waterways.

Under the bill, retailers are considered "any supermarket, convenience store, shop, service station, restaurant or any other sales outlet where a customer purchases goods." Retailers would receive a penny rebate on each plastic bag to cover administrative costs.

A majority of council members have indicated they will support the bill. However, some county residents are imploring them to reverse course, saying they are already too heavily taxed.

"The increased county taxes on real property, energy and communications services are already outrageously high," said Martin Shulman, of Kensington. "The bag tax is a nuisance tax. I do not want to lug bunches of bags wherever I go shopping."

And that criticism was echoed by at least one council member.

"I'm tired of passing taxes that nickel and dime people," said Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large. "It's a very regressive tax, and it's just another way to raise revenue."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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