On Tuesday, Montgomery County became the region’s second jurisdiction to pass a bag tax — a five-cent fee on the purchase of paper and plastic bags intended to cut down on disposable bag use and raise a few bucks in the process.
The county more or less followed the playbook devised by the District of Columbia when it passed its law, which went into effect in January 2010 — in particular, promoting the tax as a means of environmental cleanup, not revenue generation.
But Montgomery actually went further than the District. Where the District only mandates that food sellers charge for bags, the county extends its tax to nearly all retail locations.
“I call it bag tax 2.0,” said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who shepherded the city bag tax into law, of the Montgomery measure. “It’s just better.”
Wells gave great credit to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett for following in the city’s footsteps. And Wells said that he advised Leggett, based on the District’s experience, to broaden its bag tax — citing some confusion in the city over which retailers should charge and which should not.
Now the question is: Why doesn’t the District go “2.0” and apply its bag tax across the retail board?
Wells said that the day will come soon enough: “I think we’ll look at doing something like that,” he said. “We wanted to get experience with the current bill before looking at amendments. This is the first full budget cycle under this bill.”
Though budget negotiations for the next fiscal year are underway, an expansion of the bag bill has not been publicly discussed. Wells says he’ll consider it when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.