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Sitka shelves proposal taxing single-use bags

September 28, 2018

SITKA, Alaska (AP) — Sitka officials have shelved a measure that would tax single-use carryout bags provided to customers by businesses on the Alaska island.

The Sitka Assembly voted this week to “postpone indefinitely” the proposed ordinance taxing paper and plastic bags, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported Wednesday.

The proposal would have levied a 15-cent tax on each plastic bag and a 10-cent tax on each paper bag beginning in April 2019. The taxes would increase in April 2020 to 25 cents for a plastic bag and 15 cents for paper.

The measure aimed to encourage the use of reusable bags and discourage single-use bags as a step toward “addressing the environmental problems associated with single-use bags,” according to the proposed ordinance.

The assembly heard testimony from more two dozen residents Tuesday. Opponents claimed it would place a burden on residents, especially those struggling financially. They also protested placing the tax revenue into Sitka’s general fund, instead of giving it back to businesses or directing it for a specific use.

“This is not the correct bill for Sitka,” assembly member Bob Potrzuski said. “I would like to see the assembly, the public to craft something more palatable.”

Supporters said the measure would reduce waste and help the environment. They claimed it would be a step in the right direction in making a difference in a community that’s reliant on the environment for fishing and tourism.

“It’s abundantly clear to me we need to make a change,” assembly member Kevin Knox said. “Is this the right change? Is it the perfect legislation? No, but no legislation is going to be perfect. I hear what people are saying. ... The thing I come back to is that I was hopeful we could make it better, more palatable, less divisive.”

Some members have agreed to craft a new ordinance on the matter to bring back before the assembly at later point.

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Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, http://www.sitkasentinel.com/

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