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Because… Chicago!

Thursday, Mar 14, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the governor’s proposed budget

Waste plastic in our environment is a serious concern posing a grave risk to fish and other wildlife in our water and other natural habitats. An excise tax on plastic bags, as suggested by the Governor’s budget transition committee, is one way Illinois can help to reduce the risk to wildlife. The state can reduce the use of plastic bags in check-out lanes and generate $19 million to $23 million in new revenue with a five-cent-per-bag tax depending on whether or not the City of Chicago, which already has a plastic bag tax, is exempted.

So, the object here is not necessarily to raise revenue (which is a rounding error on a rounding error), but to reduce the use of plastic bags. And because of that, the governor left open the possibility of exempting Chicago because it already has a bag tax and usage is already down.

* Both bills introduced in the House and the Senate exempt the city. And that, predictably, is not going over too well with some folks

Chicago approved a seven-cent tax on plastic bags that went into effect in early 2017. Under [Sen. Terry Link’s] proposal, cities like Chicago, Oak Park and Evanston, that already enacted a bag tax, would remain exempt from any new state bag fees, and would not have to pay any portion of the current city tax to the state’s General Revenue Fund, essentially forfeiting the state’s potential to collect tax revenue from roughly a quarter of the state’s consumers.

“That’s bullsh*t,” Senator Chapin Rose responded. The Mahomet Republican called the plan “typical for the Democrats.”

“Exempt Chicago and let everyone else pay,” Rose said sarcastically. “Why not when you have supermajorities like this? Make downstate and the suburbs pay so Chicago can take their skim off the top.”


* And then there’s this

The retail merchants also want a state bag tax to pre-empt any local ordinances — at least outside Chicago. […]

[Rob Karr of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association] says with so many companies operating in multiple jurisdictions, a patchwork of local rules would be a logistical and accounting nightmare.

In the end, this bag tax might very well turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth.


  1. - Ok - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:01 pm:

    $75 per year?

    That would be 1,000 plastic bags a year on average per family.

    3 a day.

    Who is using that many bags?

    And with the ILGOP’s math, that would effectively mean there are only 300,000 families in Illinois.

    ($23 m/$.07/1000)

  2. - 47th Ward Whig - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:04 pm:

    “This plastic bag fee is not a revenue program, it is an environmental program,” Walling said.

    If that is true, why not just pass legislation banning plastic bags? Just another cash grab for more wasteful spending by the Democrats.

  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:05 pm:

    ===banning plastic bags?===

    Chicago tried that and retailers got around it.

  4. - Back to the Mountains - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:05 pm:

    This is a scenario where preemption makes perfect sense. If the goal of the idea is to get revenue coming in, then the revenue should be gotten from the entirety of the state, the law shouldn’t incentivize a patchwork of local laws on the subject, and it shouldn’t reward early adopters of the idea. It should set the rate, set the mechanism for remittance, and move on.

  5. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:06 pm:

    Put the tax into effect statewide preempting all local taxes. Then have the tax collected go back to local government. That would follow the unprepared food sales tax model. Everybody wins except state GRF.

  6. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    ===Put the tax into effect statewide preempting all local taxes. Then have the tax collected go back to local government.===


  7. - Groucho - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:11 pm:

    Why stop with plastic bags. I completely fill my blue recycling can every week (live in Chicago family of four). So many items I purchase seem to be over packaged. Not to mention Amazon purchases. Not only are items over packaged, but the Amazon box is usually much larger than it needs to be.

  8. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    Let the state pre-empt Chicago. We’ll save two cents per bag.

    I finally agree with Chapin Rose.

  9. - Shemp - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    I am okay with the concept (I have come around over the years), but it does need to be applied the same way universally. While the tax itself will be controversial, applying it equitably shouldn’t be.

  10. - Tylers friend - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:24 pm:

    Can we talk about the virtue of picking up the garbage in your yard, business parking lot, and what blows by in front of your person?

    If a little more of that was done maybe the problem wouldn’t be so bad.

    The new maxim in Illinois is no regionalization with rules, unless it benefits that majority in appeasing the most vocally obnoxious of their constituents. (’member? $15/hr?)

  11. - AnneofIL - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    Yeah…more trouble than it’s worth sums it up nicely. Folks here in the hinterlands of IL are angry about this. They get taxed on their bags, while many of the people lecturing them about being good environmentalists(Guv Pritz & Co) live lives FAR less green than their own. Quit driving so much. Quit flying so much. Turn down your thermostats in winter,up in summer. Eat sustainably at home. Garden if you can. Downsize your house. Quit buying plastic crap, sure, including bags. If you are going to tax plastic, well..TAX it. All of it. Including big trash bags folks use daily in their homes.

  12. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    SB1240 states:

    (1) the retailer shall retain $0.02 per bag
    (2) the wholesaler shall retain $0.02 per bag
    (3) $0.03 per bag shall be deposited into the Checkout Bag Tax Fund.

    All this so the state can collect 3 cents per bag.

  13. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:43 pm:

    The law should have an exemption for bio-degrade-able bags, like those made from corn and soy derivatives. Helps the ag sector out a little bit at the same time.

  14. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:43 pm:

    This tax is a bit regressive in that it hits lower income people harder than higher income people.

    If you really want to do some good, start a state-wide plastic recycling program where you have pickup points for any kind of plastic. Many people in rural areas don’t have access to recycle or they make it too complicated. I don’t know how you might fund it unless you add a tiny percent to the state sales tax. The sales tax is regressive too, but would be spread more evenly among the income levels.

    Plastic bags are a small percentage of the plastic that goes into landfills so this looks more like a plan to help retailers since they get a cut of the tax.

  15. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:44 pm:

    @City Zen:

    I question why the wholesaler needs a cut of this, but, no, it is actually “All this so the state can reduce one of the biggest sources of litter, reducing blight and improving the environment.”

  16. - DuPage - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:45 pm:

    Does this only cover plastic? A few days ago I read it was also going to cover PAPER bags as well. That would not help reduce the use of plastic bags, as it would cost the same to use paper or plastic. To reduce plastic bag use, paper bags should remain free.

  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    Why does the retailer get two cents, and why should Chicago be exempt from contributing to the revenue fund? My township could use it. Why tack on extra income for the retailer?

    This is one goofy scheme.

  18. - Sox Fan - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    ==Yeah…more trouble than it’s worth sums it up nicely. ==

    So what is the solution, do nothing? Plastic bags are objectively bad for the environment. The bag tax in chicago has seen some success early. Habits will eventually change.

    If an outright ban is a non starter, this seems like a pretty good solution.

  19. - A Jack - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    Indeed what are retailers going to do with their 2 cents but buy more plastic bags.

  20. - Perrid - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    I’m scratching my head trying to understand anyone with a straight face saying the exemption benefits Chicago. They already pay a 7 cent per bag fee, so preempting that won’t hurt them. It would literally lessen the tax burden on them. Or are you arguing that money should go to the State and not the city? Maybe, but that’s not really an equity question.

  21. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:55 pm:

    thechampaignlife - I agree. But I’m not sure why the state has to divvy up the spoils of this tax in such a generous manner. All this work for less than 50% of the take?

    And I also think an effective incentive would be to give folks a rebate for bringing their own bags. Pay for it with the revenue from this tax fund. After all, the goal is to “reduce one of the biggest sources of litter, reducing blight and improving the environment”, right?

  22. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    = Just another cash grab for more wasteful spending by the Democrats.=

    $20M or so is hardly a cash grab. As Rich notes it’s a rounding error. Make the tax a quarter or fifty cents and you might have an argument. But you’ll also see plastic bag disappear really quick.

    I’m not opposed to the idea but like a lot of things the state undertakes the execution isn’t always what it needs to be.

  23. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:09 pm:

    Policy should be for the people. Not for “retailers and wholesalers.”

  24. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:15 pm:

    Impose the tax but send it all back to the locals, just like Chicago.

    Then watch the GOP change their minds.

  25. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    It amazes me how the environmental groups focus so much on plastic bags, yet Chicago’s recycling program is almost non-existent. They should focus on the real problem, and not just the problem everyone notices.

  26. - No Straw Man - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    I also see no reason to stop at plastic shopping bags. Include a plastic straw tax at restaurants and convenience stores and etc.

  27. - Biker - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:21 pm:

    The Link bill has serious issues. It could prevent the banning of styrafoam or plastic straws in the future, something that is being done in a number of places.

  28. - sulla - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:26 pm:

    Why not charge a deposit on plastic bags like Michigan does with pop cans? You pay your bag deposit at the check out line and then you get your nickle or whatever back when you return the bag to a recycling kiosk.

    It would actually create an incentive for people to pick up errant bags blowing around town and turn them in for cash.

    This would also reduce the number of plastic bags that go into single-stream consumer recycling, which mess up the sorting machines and cause a ton of problems for recycling processors.

  29. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:33 pm:

    ===Why not charge a deposit on plastic bags like Michigan does with pop cans?===

    You ever try to pick up dog (stuff) with an old Coke can? Believe me, no one wants anything to do with used, single use plastic bags.

    In Ireland, where the Irish, God bless them all, are degenerate litter bugs, they used to call plastic bags caught in trees “the National flag of Ireland.” Seriously, in practically every tree in Dublin you could find at least one bag flapping in the breeze.

    They banned them entirely. No tax, no deposit, just an outright ban. The Irish people did just fine afterward, but still haven’t figured out how to put candy wrappers in the bin.

  30. - Gone, but not forgotten - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:33 pm:

    Will Link card users have to pay for bags?

  31. - Responsa - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:37 pm:

    If the governor picked up the poo from his own dogs a couple times a day (using plastic) or carted out the used cat litter to the garbage himself (in a plastic bag-sometimes double bagged) he might look askew at this bag tax the way many regular Illinoisans do, no matter where they live in the state.

  32. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:45 pm:

    ==It would actually create an incentive for people to pick up errant bags blowing around town and turn them in for cash.==

    Around Mother’s Day, I foresee Kramer and Newman loading up thousands of plastic bags into a mail truck and driving to the USPS domestic regional sorting facility in Kankakee.

  33. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:47 pm:

    ==Will Link card users have to pay for bags?==

    No. Per the City of Chicago, “This tax shall not apply to the retail sale or use of checkout bags that are used to carry items purchased pursuant to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or a similar governmental food assistance program.”

    In other words, just like the soda tax.

  34. - Rail Splitter - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    A Jack- Environmental groups worked to kill a statewide plastic bag recycling program in 2012. The bill made it to Governor Quinn’s desk where they championed a veto and worked against an override.

  35. - Streator Curmudgeon - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    Some newspapers are delivered in a plastic sleeve every day. Does that mean subscribers will have to pay 5 cents a day extra, on top of their subscription?

    Granted there is not as much plastic in those sleeves as in a Walmart or grocery bag, but I’m wondering if the law would apply to those as well.

  36. - d. p. gumby - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    Sulla has a good idea about a returnable deposit. As a kid I remember gather pop bottles from ditches for the refund.
    Otherwise, come on people–it’s not for revenue. It’s a pure capitalistic way to address a problem–make the product more expensive to reduce usage. Why would Rep. complain?

  37. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    Streator. Regrettably the delivered newspaper thing will soon be a non issue.

  38. - @ no straw man - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    don’t fergit about taxing plastic bags for newspapers, doggy-doo bags, dry-cleaning bags, shipping bags, garbage bags, storage bags, ziploc bags, freezer bags, etc. etc.

  39. - Langhorne - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:34 pm:

    While we are at it, let’s ban helium balloon releases. You know, for weddings, birthdays, Memorial‘s. There is absolutely no value to such releases, and they are harmful.

    Meanwell, this is turning into a classic cluster. Too many people involved, too many exemptions, feeble revenue divvied up in every which way. Focus on the real source, plastic bottles containers, household crap, and have a real recycling program.

  40. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:40 pm:

    - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    ===Put the tax into effect statewide preempting all local taxes. Then have the tax collected go back to local government.===



  41. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    ==Around Mother’s Day, I foresee Kramer and Newman loading up thousands of plastic bags into a mail truck and driving to the USPS domestic regional sorting facility in Kankakee==

    Let me know when exactly, I want to get my hands on Kennedy’s golf clubs

  42. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:11 pm:

    There are a lot of things we need to stop doing in order to help the environment, and not using plastic bags is low hanging fruit. Just ban them. We don’t need them for anything. We got along fine without them. Stores should provide paper or cloth bags for a fee and give a discount for folks who bring their own.

  43. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:14 pm:

    Dont know about you Northerners but i pick up way more water bottles and styrofoam soda cups than shopping bags

  44. - Sunshyne40 - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:16 pm:

    In Chicago we are already taxed .07 on paper and plastic bags and .05 per bottle of water and then the liquor tax that varies depending on the purchase. All of these are in addition to the regular sales tax.

  45. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:16 pm:

    Pot - they stopped providing paper bags because they cost more. So the solution from the geniuses that be is to give retailers financial incentive to get more bags put there… 4c a bag for our corporate overlords.

  46. - Tired Teacher - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:29 pm:

    C Rose - way to stay classy. Not! Our political discourse in our nation can reach sound solutions if we avoid reaching for the lowest common denominator.

  47. - Platon - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:41 pm:

    The bag tax has been a huge success in Chicago. Almost no one gets plastic bags at the grocery anymore. Everyone shows up with their own reusable bags. But Chicago should not have to pay twice, once to the City and once to the State.

  48. - dbk - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:52 pm:

    What exactly is the goal here? To collect a small amount of revenue for the state, or to reduce single-use plastic bag use?

    I agree with others above - just ban them and have people bring their own reusable bags to the supermarket. If other places (including entire countries) can get along without them, so can Illinoisans.

  49. - low level - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 3:58 pm:

    Again, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Chicago only gets back 80 cents for every dollar it sends to the state. Some downstate counties get over $2 back for each dollar.

    As usual, Chapin Rose ignores facts and instead chooses nonsensical hyperbolic rhetoric. This is one of the many reasons he will never be in the majority

  50. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 4:02 pm:

    Bags made from biodegradable hemp are the future solution?

  51. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 4:19 pm:

    ==Again, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Chicago only gets back 80 cents for every dollar it sends to the state. ==

    Tell Manar to pay his fair share.

  52. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 5:38 pm:

    The plastic bag tax is one I like. I consume less bags. When I had pay for them, I realized that they are going to the landfill. Or even worse, blowing themselves into Lake Michigan. This was less a revenue-thing, but more of a desire to curtail consumption.

  53. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 7:35 pm:

    An estimated 100 billion plastic bags are used in the U.S. annually. You’d expect Illinois to use about 3.8%, or 3.8 billion bags. Seven cents a bag amounts to about $270 million out of the pockets of Illinois consumers.

    I still like the idea. Behavior would change and fewer bags would be used. But $20 million seems way low.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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