While budget discussions are underway in the NJ Legislature, a couple of bills are getting fast-tracked through the legislative process.
Bag Tax: A-3267 would impose a 5-cent fee on single-use carryout bags, an approach now enforced by several municipalities and counties to help foster the use of reusable bags by shoppers. This bill is part of a legislative package to raise funds for the budget and is being fast-tracked through the Legislature. Some environmental groups oppose the bill as they are seeking a ban. Several retailers are supporting the measure as a way to supersede the municipal ordinances that have banned the use of bags and will save the retailer funds as well.
The bill would establish a fee on the use of single-use carryout bags provided by certain types of stores and dedicate revenue from the fee to the “Health Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund” established in the bill. Specifically:
The bill would require each operator of a store to impose a $0.05 fee on a customer for each single-use carryout bag that is provided to the customer. However, the bill provides that no fee would be charged if the customer is 65 years of age or older, or is enrolled as a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), or the Work First New Jersey program. “Store” is defined in the bill as a drug store, supermarket, or retail establishment that has over 2,000 square feet of retail space or is part of a chain, and that provides carryout bags to its customers as a result of the sale of a product. A “chain” is any business with 10 or more locations in the state or nationally and doing business under the same trade name or under common ownership or control, or as franchised outlets of a parent business. “Single-use carryout bag” is defined as any bag that is not a reusable carryout bag, and would include single-use compostable and non-compostable plastic bags and paper bags.
Under the bill, each store operator would be required to indicate the total number of single-use carryout bags provided to a customer and the total fee charged for the bags on the sales or other receipt given to the customer. Store operators would retain $0.01 of the fee collected, and pay the remaining $0.04 to the Division of Taxation. The director could use up to 1 percent of the revenues collected to defray the cost of administration of the bill. The bill also would require the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a public information program which addresses the harmful environmental effects caused by single-use carryout bags, and encourages consumers to use reusable carryout bags for retail shopping.
The bill also would require the DEP to establish a public information program which addresses the harmful environmental effects caused by single-use carryout bags, and encourages consumers to use reusable carryout bags for retail shopping. The public information program would include information on the fee charged for single-use carryout bags pursuant to the bill.
Finally, the bill would supersede and preempt all municipal and county rules, regulations, codes, and ordinances concerning the regulation or prohibition of carryout bags or fees charged for those bags.
Additionally, there is pending legislation, A-4040, that would call for an all-out ban on plastic bags, which we will continue to oppose. Please see a recent article published by NJBIA.
Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith also plans to have a public hearing on plastic bags over the summer months.
Stormwater Utilities: S-1073, sponsored by Senator Smith, creates storm water utilities and is being considered by the full Senate Thursday. NJBIA understands the laudable goal of the sponsor to address non-point source pollution, flooding and infrastructure needs. However, we believe a comprehensive plan for our water infrastructure that also mitigates the impact on ratepayers should instead be considered versus a new tax on ratepayers. New Jersey is the most taxed state in the nation and our companies and residents are challenged by affordability and the overall cost of living here. For many businesses, the fees authorized in this bill would amount to double taxation, as many facilities already are required to obtain stormwater permits for their operations. As such, we are continuing to oppose the legislation.
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