Berliner Says Overreaching Bag Tax Could Breed Resentment

County Councilman Roger Berliner (file photo)County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) says he’s worried a bag tax that many see as overbearing could breed resentment toward the 5-cent fee’s intended goal of reducing plastic bag use.

That’s why Berliner is joining Councilmembers Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) and Nancy Floreen (D-At large) in introducing a measure that would limit the bag tax to food stores, just more than a year after he was one of the leading proponents for the fee.

“I have always been concerned that if you overreach in trying to achieve a noble end, you turn a law of good intentions into a law that breeds resentment.  The shift in consciousness that you achieve is not one that promotes protecting the environment, but rather one that diminishes support for doing so,” Berliner said in a press release on Tuesday. “We can not afford to squander good will on marginal outcomes.  There is no doubt in my mind that government will need to play a strong role – and in many cases a leading role — if we are to continue making strides toward protecting our planet.  I want to save our political chits for the tough fights ahead – and when we get there, I want to have earned the community’s trust that we will not squander their progressive capital.”

Berliner, who said he has struggled with the issue, said he doesn’t think bringing reuseable bags into retail or hardware stores is natural behavior. In 2012, the bag tax netted Montgomery County more than twice the revenue it expected.

The county’s Department of Environmental Protection is expected to fight the proposed change to the law, which Director Bob Hoyt called one of the most successful county programs he has seen. Berliner also said focusing the fee on food stores will increase the likelihood the state legislature passes a statewide bill.

Berliner also discussed another environmentally-themed bill he’ll introduce today, one that would help fund commercial property owners who qualify to make clean energy improvements.


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