Our Opinion: Money grab

New York politicians have given Americans one more reason to be leery of so-called “environmental” initiatives. Too often, they are grabs for money and power.

A new state budget about to be adopted by the Empire State’s legislature includes a ban on the use of plastic bags. Liberal lawmakers call it a move to clean up the environment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the bill “is probably the strongest progressive statement that we’ve made.”

In terms of intrusion into New Yorkers’ lives and a massive raid on their pocketbooks, it certainly is a strong statement.

Some chain grocery stores already are working to phase out plastic bags. There are legitimate concerns about their impact on the environment. Left to its own devices, our market economy probably would take care of the problem within a few years.

In the process, New York liberals want to bag up a few billion dollars in hidden taxes.

Here’s how the ban would work: If enacted, it would kick in on March 1, 2020. Beginning then, stores would be prohibited from using plastic bags. The only reasonable alternative is paper.

Individual counties would be permitted to charge 5-cent fees for each paper bag handed out by stores. That cost would be passed on to customers.

Consider the fact that New Yorkers use about 23 billion plastic bags each year, according to state government’s Plastic Bag Task Force.

Assuming that some customers will bring their own reusable bags to stores, while others will get paper bags that may hold more than the plastic ones, an estimate of 10 billion paper bags used annually seems reasonable. At 5 cents each, that will force consumers to pay $500 million in new fees for their trips to the store. Sixty percent of that will go to the state Environmental Protection Fund. The remaining $200 million will go to local governments, presumably to be used however they choose.

“The convenience of plastic bags is simply not worth the environmental impact. By reducing our state’s usage, we will see less litter in our communities and less plastic pollution in our waterways,” state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Yonkers, told The Associated Press. And more of New Yorkers’ money going to the government, he might have added.

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