Montgomery County officials collected $154,000 during the first month of implementing its controversial bag tax, according to county data released Thursday.
The 5-cent tax on paper and plastic carryout bags debuted Jan. 1. County officials say they are making as much as expected.
County officials have expected that stores would distribute more than 36 million carryout bags in 2012. Stores distributed 3.8 million bags in January, according to the data which the county provided to The Washington Post.
Officials also had expected that they would raise about $1.2 million this year. If the January rate continues, the county would make about 50 percent more than expected, or $1.8 million. But county officials have said bag use would drop over time.
In comparison, the District made about $2 million the first year it implemented its 5-cent bag tax. Montgomery’s fee, which was approved by the County Council last May, is an expanded verison of the District’s, which was enacted two years ago.
While the District’s surcharge applies only to businesses that sell food or alcohol, Montgomery’s bag tax involves nearly all retail establishments, not just those that sell food. The few exceptions include paper bags from restaurants and pharmacy bags for prescription drugs.
Supporters of the tax say it will encourage shoppers to use fewer bags, which end up polluting the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. Some of the revenue pays for marketing and administrative costs, but the rest support a water management fund, county officials say.
But the tax has angered some shoppers, and county officials still receive angry e-mails and calls from constituents who don’t want to give up the nickel.