Checkout Bag Tax moving in General Assembly
Tax of 7 cents a bag would provide an estimated $20 million in state revenue
By Ted Cox
Illinois may soon be following Chicago’s lead in moving toward reusable shopping bags.
A proposal for what’s been labeled a Checkout Bag Tax cleared the Senate Revenue Committee in the General Assembly last week in a unanimous bipartisan vote. According to Capitol News Illinois, lead sponsor Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan is in negotiations to refine Senate Bill 1240 for final passage.
As it stands, the bill would impose a 7-cent tax on all shopping bags — “plastic, paper, or compostable.” It’s meant to be imposed on the customer, and stores are banned from taking on the cost themselves.
Of the 7 cents, two would be kept by the store as a handling fee. The remaining 5 cents would technically be collected by bag wholesalers, with 2 cents going to the state’s general revenue and the remaining 3 cents going to county and municipal solid waste management.
In his current budget proposal, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said it would raise $20 million in revenue.
Bag taxes, however, have proved to be better for the environment than for government coffers. Chicago imposed a 7-cent bag tax in 2017, but original projections that it would provide the city $9.2 million a year had to be lowered, first to $7.7 million, then to $5 million, as the city saw a 45 percent decline in the number of bags shoppers were taking home.
A 7-cent tax on shopping bags is negligible — pocket change for most shoppers — but it’s enough of a nuisance to prompt many people to buy and bring along their own reusable shopping bags.
According to a study performed in part by the University of Chicago Energy & Environment Lab and released last September, U.S. shoppers take home 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year. Barely 10 percent are recycled, and “unrecycled bags often end up in landfills, clog storm drains, or find their way into local waterways or trees.” The study also finds: “The majority end up in landfills, taking up to an estimated 1,000 years to decompose.”
The study also found, however, that more than half of all Chicago shoppers continue to use the bags. So, imposed statewide, it would figure to provide the state with some form of revenue, leveling off after an initial reduction.