Murphy to veto shopping bag tax amid push for outright ban
TRENTON — There won't be a 5-cent tax on plastic and paper shopping bags after Gov. Phil Murphy takes his veto pen to the legislation, paving the way for an outright ban of plastic bags and straws.
News of the expected veto was announced Thursday by state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, during a joint Assembly and Senate hearing on environmental issues in Toms River.
The legislation would have placed a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags. The money would have been used for a Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund.
A spokeswoman for Murphy's office said the governor was expected to veto the bill in the coming days.
Although the law was aimed at reducing plastic waste, environmental groups opposed the law because it did not go far enough. Several counties and municipalities already have moved to ban plastic bags within their borders.
The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said consumers get used to paying the extra fee.
“Now that Gov. Murphy has vetoed this fee bill, we can work towards creating a full ban on plastics," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said Thursday. "Bans on plastic have proven to be effective. For example, Los Angeles County saw a 94 percent reduction in single-use bags after implementing a ban. This included a 30 percent reduction in paper bag use with a 10-cent fee on other bags. In San Jose, they saw an 89 percent decrease of bags in storm drains, 60 percent fewer in creeks, and 59 percent fewer in streets."
A bill introduced by Smith and state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, would prohibit stores and restaurants from using styrofoam or polystyrene packaging, plastic bags or single-use plastic straws. Violators would be fined $5,000 a day.
During the hearing Thursday, a representative from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said businesses would prefer a statewide policy, not town-by-town regulations.
The plastics industry employs 18,000 workers in New Jersey.
"To date, the state has not released any kind of analysis studying the impact of plastics as it relates to litter or other environmental concerns. We want to be sure that any measure impacting so many jobs will actually have the desired effect," NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas said.
Dino Flammia contributed to this report.