Gov. Cuomo to Sign Bill Barring NYC Bag Tax, Set Up Statewide Code

A man walks out of a store in New York City with plastic bags. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Slamming New York City’s proposed 5-cent bag fee as a “$100 million per year windfall to merchants,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated Tuesday afternoon that he intends to sign a bill barring the city from implementing the proposal.

Instead, he is setting up a task force to come up with a statewide scheme to decide whether bags should be limited or taxed and, if taxed, to whom the tax money should go.

State Sen. Simcha Felder, who was the prime mover behind the state legislation, told Hamodia that he was “delighted that we New Yorkers will wake up tomorrow morning knowing we are not being nickled and dimed again and again.”

“We’ve said all along that we need a sound policy that protects the environment but puts people first,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said in a statement, I commend Senator Felder for his tireless advocacy on behalf of his constituents and all the residents of New York City.& The truth is he was talking about this when no one else was, and his voice made all the difference.& Kudos to Speaker Heastie and Assemblyman Cusick, and all of our colleagues in the Senate and Assembly for working together to get a result.

The bill ordering New York City to refrain from implementing the bag tax, which had been scheduled to go into effect this past Monday, was passed overwhelmingly last week by both the Democratic-led Assembly and the GOP Senate.

Speculation as to whether Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, would sign it, centered on his desire to be seen as being on the forefront of progressive initiatives versus his antipathy to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In the end, the governor chose to nix the bag tax — called a fee by proponents since the money goes to storeowners, not the government — while setting up a commission to explore limiting plastic bags uniformly across the state.

“New York State has proudly led this nation’s environmental movement from its inception,” Gov. Cuomo said in a lengthy, 925-word statement Tuesday evening extolling his record on the environment.

He noted that the city’s Department of Sanitation estimates it collects an average of 1,700 tons of plastic bags per week, costing $12.5 million annually in disposal costs. Statewide, an estimated 23 billion plastic bags are used annually.

However, he blasted the city’s law as “deeply flawed” — acerbically noting that it passed 28-20, “the closest of any vote taken in the last several years.”

“Most objectionable is that the law was drafted so that merchants keep the five cent fee as profit, instead of the money being used to solve the problem of plastic bags’ environmental impact,” he said, “essentially amounting to a $100 million per year windfall to merchants.”

He said the task force will be comprised of representatives of the Senate, the Assembly, as well as local governments and “stakeholders.”

“Questions as to what the statewide solution should be,” Mr. Cuomo noted, “are very much in debate: should the state ban paper and plastic carry-out products? Is a tax the best approach? If so, at what level and who should be the beneficiary? Should the state be obligated to supply reusable bags for a period of time during a transition?”

The commission will issue a report and proposed legislation by December.

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