Dallas Bag Tax Repeal a Model for MoCo
By Nick Peang-Meth
Six months ago, the Dallas City Council approved a five cent bag tax on plastic shopping bags, similar to the one in place in Montgomery County. Last week, after significant blowback from the community, the tax was repealed in a 10-4 vote. By Monday, the city had collected its last nickel from shoppers.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Dallasite Greg Foster said, “Throwing out the plastic bag fees and denying an all-out ban is a small sign that more level heads are actually at Dallas City Hall now. It was one of the most asinine moves made in recent memory. While everyone wants litter reduced, the fees did nothing to reach that goal.”
A like-minded neighbor agrees, saying that “It was a silly fee/regulation in the first place. I have taken my own bags for years, but I would forget when I went to non-grocery establishments, and it was annoying.”
Since the Dallas City Councilmen rightly found that the bag tax was an unnecessary burden on shoppers, their decision should become a model for other municipalities with bag taxes in effect, namely our own Montgomery County. Residents are learning that the tax has become a cash cow for a county government with already bloated budgets: since its implementation, the tax has raised $8 million dollars in revenue.
And what does the county have to show for it? Apparently not much. Data shows only marginal decreases in plastic bag consumption in Montgomery County, although there is insufficient data to tell for certain if a trend exists.
But the environment movement need not worry, for the Montgomery County Council has leaders like Hans Riemer to push even more burdensome mandates such as the Styrofoam ban passed unanimously in January and set to go in effect next year.
In fact, the Styrofoam ban is an even more egregious case of burdensome environmental over-regulation. An all-out ban means that small business owners must scramble to find a way to afford more expensive alternatives to Styrofoam cups, trays and carryout containers.
Not only that, but Riemer’s ban also includes things like egg cartons, cups and plates. County employees will no longer be allowed to use “single-use disposable food service ware” that is not compostable while on the job.
What Dallas’ leaders discovered last week, and what our leaders need to discover, is that the cost of these expansive and expensive regulations, taxes and mandates is not worth the marginal environmental gains.
In order to realize the true environmental progress we all desire, environmentalists and legislators need to recognize that the biggest force for change is the free market. Their focus should be on making environmentally friendly products more affordable, not on making existing products more expensive.
When reusable shopping bags, or compostable cartons, or hybrid vehicles are cheaper than their less sustainable counterparts, and when the environmentally friendly solutions are no more burdensome than those that exist today, the impact will far surpass what any sort of government mandate from above can impart.