As our State Senators and State Delegates continue to consider proposing a law that will allow the local government to bring forward a bag tax for Howard County…I thought it a good idea to look at the DATA from DC and see how it has reduced the number of bags used / taxed at point of sale over the years (spoiler…it has not reduced the number of bags taxed).

The GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – Department of Energy and Environment has produced an annual report from FY2014 – FY2017 on the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund. Here is some data from the 2017 report you might find interesting:

Bag Fee Revenue Fiscal Year Revenue ($)

  • 2010* 1,510,088.35
  • 2011 1,845,313.25
  • 2012 1,993,183.22
  • 2013 2,001,575.50
  • 2014 2,084,613.59
  • 2015 2,236,275.44
  • 2016 2,284,104.15
  • 2017 2,382,747.11
  • *Partial fiscal year from January to October

A key fact with these numbers…the bag tax fee has not increased since 2010…but the revenue has gone up each and every year. Now you can say that more people live in the area…or you can say more stores are in compliance with the law…but the bottom line is that more bags are taxed at point of sale every year…meaning that the number of bags over eight fiscal years is not reducing…only going up.

If this tax significantly reduced the number of bags used and taxed at point of sale by incentivizing residents to use reusable bags…we should see a significant reduction in revenue…but that is not what DC has seen eight years of implementing this tax….the same (or very similar) tax being proposed here in Howard County.

This is a great revenue generating tax on the residents…and if that is the point of the tax being proposed by our legislators…they should just own up to it as they move forward with this bill. If it is about significantly reducing the number of bags used at point of sale over time…my hope is that they take a long hard look at the DATA from DC and Montgomery County before moving forward with this bill.

More data coming soon on this topic…so stay tuned.

Scott E

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