The New York City Plastic Bag Fee Is An Undue Burden


This past week we in the New York State legislature passed a bill which Governor Cuomo signed that was designed to put a moratorium on the bad fee set to go into effect on February 15. The lead up to this vote has been contentious, with debates centering on a number of issues regarding economics, environmental impact, and city government purview. I voted for the moratorium because my belief that the bag fee legislation was flawed and would not reduce the use of plastic bags, but place an undue burden on working class families.  

Assemblyman Walter Mosley

As a member of the Assembly from New York City and a member of the Environmental Caucus I have fought hard to preserve our environment and green spaces which are vital for our community. I currently sponsor two bills banning the use of hydro-fracking material from being used as de-icing agent on our road ways as well as banning the transportation of the material at waste transfer facilities in our state. We understand that climate change is a real, pertinent issue facing us not only on a global scope but right here at home. With New York City residents still dealing with the effects of Superstorm Sandy we have to invest in resiliency efforts for our infrastructure to plan for the next major storm surge. We as a state also need to invest in environmentally sustainable energy sources to curtail our carbon output and stem the tide of climate change.

The concept that this fee is supposed to be a deterrent to using plastic bags is a poor public policy. We have placed taxes on cigarettes and alcohol as a form of curtailing those products uses but to no avail. Only through education and restricting their availability have we cut down tobacco and alcohol consumption. This type of monetary disincentives does not work. It is also bad public policy because the law itself has several loopholes. It would not cover such plastic bags used by dry cleaning services or take out delivery. Why was there no uniform fee for all plastic bags?

This brings me to the economic point of the debate. The fee – because it is a fee and not a tax – was the reason I voted for the moratorium. The state government has purview over setting taxes, not city government. Because of this, the fee would not go to funding the state EPA or education initiatives about environmental services; it would go straight in to the pockets of grocery stores. As such, the hardship would solely be passed on to the low-income working class families of New York City. This would not create the desired effect of reducing the use of plastic bags, only pushing a financial burden on families who are trying to stretch the value of their dollar in an already expensive market.

I support legislation that is about smart solutions, not regressive policies. My colleague Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is introducing legislation that would give a 3 cent rebate on using reusable backs in stores. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz is sponsoring a bill to ban all plastic based bags in the state of New York. Along with these two proposed pieces of legislation, I look forward to working to with environmental advocates, constituents, and policy experts to craft legislation to help preserve our environment for generations to come.