Photo courtesy Flickr/eflon
Elected officials who oppose the City Council-backed plastic bag fee celebrated a victory this week.
Last May, the Council passed legislation that would put a 5-cent fee on carryout plastic bags. Though many legislators voted for it because of its positive environmental impact, others decried it as a way to “nickel and dime” low-income and senior residents.
Opposition to the bill went all the way to Albany, where Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder led a push to block the bill from being implemented. The effort worked, as both chambers in the State Legislature passed a one-year moratorium on the fee, which was supposed to take effect today.
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the moratorium, barring similar legislation until January 2018. Instead, he called for a task force to create a statewide plan to address the environmental impact of plastic bags.
Elected officials against the fee cheered on the governor’s decision.
“I am so pleased to see that Governor Cuomo agrees with many of my constituents, who believe that there are far better ways to address the plastic bag issue than charging customers five cents to the benefit of the grocery stores,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who was vocal about his opposition. “I look forward to working with the Governor’s newly created task force to credibly eliminate plastic bags from our environment.”
“The people have spoken out in opposition to the plastic bag fee,” he added, “and their state government heard them loud and clear.”
Queens Councilman Barry Grodenchik, who voted against the measure in the City Council, also thanked Governor Cuomo for signing the delay. He called it a “regressive tax” that would “unfairly fall on the shoulders of working families and seniors.”
“The five cents collected per bag would not benefit the city or the environment, but instead go directly int0 merchants’ pockets,” Grodenchik said. “It is unfortunate that the State government had to get involved, but it was necessary.”
“I will continue to fight to permanently block this tax,” he added. ‘”Surely there are better ways of achieving our shared goal of responsible environmental stewardship.”
The New York League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, issued a statement against the Governor’s moratorium.
“We are deeply saddened that Governor Cuomo has signed the bill to nullify New York City’s fee on carryout bags,” said Marcia Bystryn, NYLCV’s president. “Though we appreciate his obvious concern for the issue, there is now a law on the books that overturns the principle of home rule and leaves us with no near-term solution to the very real problem of plastic bag waste.”
“Let us be clear: a task force that does not lead to a robust statewide law is not an acceptable consolation prize,” she added. “We take Governor Cuomo at his word that he will work with the Senate and Assembly and act expeditiously.”