5 Cent Bag Tax Coming To Howard County?

I wrote a few days ago about The Howard County Delegation hearing testimony from the public on drafted local bills…and one of those bills has to do with a Bag Tax for Howard County.

The Baltimore Sun / Howard County Times wrote it up in a story yesterday…here is some of what they wrote:

Proposal would allow Howard County to impose a 5 cent bag tax

A tax on plastic bags could be coming to Howard County.

(quoted text removed at the request of the Baltimore Sun)

Since this was announced…I have posted the following on social media threads on this topic:

I will have a number of blog posts about this in the future…but I will say this here: If it is really about the environment then the legislation should be to ban the use of plastics bag placing the burden on businesses to provide another option…what this is…is a tax on the citizens for using a product that the businesses offer…those are two very different things…and why I oppose this…

Let’s be very, very clear what this is about…it is about making the county more money…not about reducing the amount of bags in Howard County. There is clear data from Montgomery County that proves that…

Part of the impetus behind the 5-cent per bag tax in Montgomery County was to try to get more people to use reusable bags, rather than the thin plastic or paper ones commonly given out at grocery stores and other retailers that often end up as litter. However, county data shows that since the tax went into effect in 2012, the revenue from the tax has increased every year, as has the number of bags taxed, possibly meaning consumer behavior wasn’t influenced by the tax. In fiscal 2013, the first full year of the 5-cent bag tax, about 59.7 million bags were taxed, which generated about $2.39 million in revenue. With the exception of fiscal 2016, the revenue has increased each year:

2014 – $2.41 million in revenue from 60.20 million bags taxed
2015 – $2.49 million from 62.3 million bags taxed
2016 – $2.48 million from 62.0 million bags taxed
2017 – $2.61 million from 65.18 million bags taxed

Read the full story here:   https://bethesdamagazine.com/bethesda-beat/business/business-notes-montgomery-county-bag-tax-revenue-hints-at-potential-decline-in-disposable-bag-usage/

Readers…if this was about the environment…the bill would be to ban all plastic bags at point of sale in Howard County…and if that was the case…the politicians supporting this bill would have to battle businesses like Walmart, Target, Giant Foods and other big chains…and they will never do that…so they throw a tax on us to try and battle this issue…which may or may not work (based on the data mentioned above)…but they will not face that scrutiny that a big corporation would give them…that is what this is about…plain and simple.

I am reaching out to some of the candidates recently elected to the Howard County Council for comment…and will be reaching out to State Senators and Delegates and possibly the newly elected County Executive (Calvin Ball) in the near future for comments. I thought it was best for them to see this post from me first…and then get their take on this issue.

I have a new hashtag for you (#NoBagTaxForHoCoMD). I know…it is long…but use it…I will every time I post on this issue.

Worry not…I will have many more posts on this issue…outlining additional data as to why this is bad…and hopefully additional statements from those elected. I will also track and post ANY member of the legislative team (Districts 9, 12 and 13) or the Howard County Council that votes yes on this issue…and will post it on my blog…so that in 4 years…if this happens…if we have to pay 5 cents for a product that businesses give us to carry out our purchases…we all remember who made it happen…and can make them pay for that during the next election cycle.

I am confused why politicians here in Howard County are in such a hurry to become like Montgomery County…but dang it it seems like that is what they want at times. If you look at the downtown Columbia plan…wow it looks like we want to turn that into the driving nightmare that is Silver Spring…our current HoCoBOE election law was based off of Montgomery County (thank goodness that might be changed this year) and now the bag tax is proposed…just like MoCo…do folks not remember that 15 years ago that Montgomery County had the best schools and the residents had the highest salaries…and now it is Howard County…so why are we trying so hard to be like they are? If we continue down this path…Carroll County will become the next Howard County…Sykesville and Eldersburg will become the next Columbia and Ellicott City…and those of us still living here will sit and wonder what the heck happened.

Again…many more post coming very soon. One thing I will say…whatever you feel about this issue…there is a meeting on the 26th where you can testify…I highly recommend you go and make your voice heard on this issue:   https://www.facebook.com/events/215830869169325/…at this point…I may be going as well.

Scott E


  1. I’ll tell you why they want to mirror Montgomery County, it’s because the Democrats in Montgomery incorporate things in the name of progress which in turn causes things to deteriorate. They then flee the area to get away from the mess they created. They move to Howard County with the same ideas and work to make the same changes that ruined Montgomery hoping for a different outcome… it’s the definition of insanity.


  2. Hi Scott,
    Was the increase in revenue from plastic bag sales in Montgomery county corrected for population and economic growth during the same period? Meanwhile “traps at 15 stream sites in the county monitored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments show a decline in the number of plastic bags collected, from 856 in 2011 to 777 in 2015. The figure from the first half of 2016 shows an even steeper drop, to 281.” That’s a good sign! Also, $10.4 million of the funds raised have been used for pollution and stormwater control programs. Studies show that disposable bag taxes work: https://wagner.nyu.edu/news/story/chicagos-disposable-bag-tax-working-study-finds


  3. I share your sentiment, Scott. From the Montgomery data, the tax revenue increases a little each year. Assuming the population increases at the same rate, that means the tax did not change people’s habit of using plastic bags at all. It is kind of weird because Montgomery County have so many envrironment sensitive residents from their support of such plastic bag tax. I wish they will have a more detailed analysis why plastic bag usage did not go down at all under the new tax. I wish our county will not make the same mistake. My thought starts from banning plastic bag usage at Giant, Safeway, Walmart and other big chain stores.


  4. I wish Scott contacted Less Plastic Please before he spoke out against 4-19. Here are some facts:
    We are in a plastic pollution crisis. Every minute of every day a garbage truck full of plastic empties into our waterways. We are literally eating, drinking and breathing plastic. I have done entire presentations on the health hazards of plastics and the dangers of fracking plastic. THIS is why Less Plastic Please is fighting for a fee on plastic bags. We are fighting to reduce single-use plastic. We do not want a nickel made on the fee. This is NOT about money, this about changing behavior. Human behavior responds to “loss aversion.” This is NOT a regressive tax. That “free bag” cost the grocery store $88 per person per year. That cost is passed on to the consumer by way of the increased cost of food. What is doing more harm to the poor? Charging a fee on an item they can choose not to pay, or increasing the cost of food staples? Less Plastic Please sees this as one solution to a complex problem. We are accepting donations of old t-shirts to make reusable bags. We give free crochet bag keychains to help folks remember their reusable bag. We are working to fix a critical problem in our society. Let’s all work together to solve it. This is so much bigger than petty politics. Let’s look at the bigger picture: Creating a healthier planet for everyone SAY YES TO 4-19.


    • Pat…I am not familiar with “Less Plastic Please”…but if you or they would like to sit down and have a civil discussion on this topic…I am always happy to do so…just reach out and we can setup a coffee conversation one morning.


  5. I live in Montgomery county and am involved with a local creek clean-up group. The first year of the bag fee the number of plastic bags pulled from the creek was almost none and fewer bags were seen in trees and blowing down the street. Over the years the bags in the street have increased but stream is staying bag free. The county gave out reusable bags everywhere at the county fair, parades, civic events festivals etc. Giant gave out free reusable bags as did some other stores. I have only bought 3 bags: one at Yosemite National park and two for NPR donation premiums.Yet I have a car trunk full of them. I notice that many people who use SNAP do not have reusable bags. They could simply bring back the bags they paid for last shopping trip-some educational programs are needed.


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