NJ Politics Digest: Lawmakers Eye Revised Shopping Bag Tax, Taxes on Internet Sales

New Jersey may soon be implementing a statewide plastic bag ban.
New Jersey may soon be implementing a statewide plastic bag ban. Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Governor Phil Murphy vetoed a plan to charge shoppers five-cents for every plastic and paper shopping bag, saying it didn’t do enough to eliminate plastic waste.

So lawmakers have now introduced a bill that would ban plastic shopping bags and double the amount they will charge for paper ones, according to a report by NJSpotlight.

The proposed measure would also ban plastic straws and polystyrene food containers. Lawmakers say such a ban is needed to reduce plastic waste. They also say New Jersey residents, who already bear one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, need to be discouraged from switching to paper bags instead, the report said.

The paper bag fee would be split evenly between the state and retailers, with the money collected by the state supposedly going to a fund to encourage plastic recycling. But the state has a record of promoting such surcharges for special purposes, then routinely raiding those funds for the general budget.

And while online shoppers don’t use shopping bags, lawmakers are eyeing them for a tax hike, too.

Both houses of the state legislature are expected to act today on a measure that would allow for broader taxes of online sales, a measure that’s expected to cost residents here between $216 million and $351 million more per year, according to ROI-NJ. The legislature is moving quickly to adopt the new tax after the U.S. Supreme Court in June cleared the way for states to collect tax on more internet sales.

Quote of the Day: “Just over and over again, you find anomalies in the New Jersey tax code that make it more expensive and a little more arbitrary. Because you want a neutral tax code that’s not picking winners and losers, and often New Jersey is doing that.”  — Jared Walczak, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, on New Jersey’s business tax climate.

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