“[Republicans] can pretend we can afford to give billionaires another handout, even though we know we can't.”
The district's fee applies to bags provided by grocery stores, drug stores and liquor stores. In late March, the city produced its first report on the tax's effects: It estimates that stores were providing 22.5 million bags per month before the fee went into effect. In January, estimates indicate retailers only handed out 3 million bags.Consumers, in other words, have drastically reduced their usage of disposable bags simply to avoid a 5 cent fee. Assuming that a plastic bag holds $10 worth of groceries, that's a tax rate of 0.5 percent. If someone uses 300 bags per year, that's a tax of only $15, and yet the impact was a reduction in half of bag usage.
City officials aren't sure whether the decline really has been quite that dramatic. They note that retailers aren't used to reporting the number of bags they provide, which could be leading to some early inaccuracies. Still, Charles Allen, chief of staff to D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, who sponsored the fee, says that anecdotally major grocery stores report they're handing out at least 50 percent fewer bags. Some smaller retailers report even bigger drops.
Politicians in Annapolis, MD are scratching their heads wondering what happened to all those chain smokers who were supposed to help balance Maryland's budget. Last year the legislature doubled the cigarette tax to $2 a pack to pay for expanded health-care coverage. Eight months later, cigarette sales have plunged 25% and the state is in fiscal distress again.