Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed a new potential budget on Feb. 20, 2019 that would go into effect in 2020. The new budget says that the entire state of Illinois would receive a statewide plastic bag tax, rather than just Chicago. The proposed budget stated that all plastic bags used at checkout lanes would be taxed at a rate of five cents per bag. Pritzker’s main motivation is to help raise income for the state and stores as well as reduce plastic pollution in Illinois.
Pritzker’s proposal would make Illinois the first state to have a statewide tax, while only some cities have a plastic bag tax—such as San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and many more. Residents of Chicago have already endured a seven cent per bag tax since Feb. 1, 2017.
This new tax would remind some shoppers to bring their own bags if they want to avoid paying the fee.
“I prefer to use my reusable bags more often, but I often forget to bring them [and I think] knowing I’d have to pay a tax if I use [plastic] bags is going to help me remember to bring my environmental-friendly bags,” Oswego High School science teacher Ms. Cynthia Vick said.
After the tax was enforced in Chicago, there was a 42% reduction in the use of plastic bags, according to the University of Chicago’s Energy and Environment lab. The tax caused citizens to be more cautious about how many plastic bags they used and encouraged them to bring their own reusable bags instead.
The money made from the tax gives five cents to the city and two to the retailer. From this tax, Chicago generated $5.6 million in 2017 and $5.9 million in 2018 according to the Department of Finance spokeswoman Kristen Cabanban. This revenue helped Illinois stores and government improve themselves by paying off state debt and allowing for more job opportunities with the extra income. The tax is exempt from families on food stamps and restaurants that use plastic bags.
Although some are frowning upon the tax, others would be glad to help bring in the extra income made from the tax.
“I work at Walmart so I’ll be producing, helping to produce more revenue for the company,” OHS sophomore Jonathan Werle said.
Pritzker estimates that this tax will help bring in an extra $19-$23 million in annual revenue, excluding the income from Chicago. With this influx of revenue, the wages of students working in retail could increase due to the additional earnings of the stores.
It is still unclear how the tax will affect Chicago directly. Government officials have the option of increasing the tax to 12 cents, decreasing it to five cents, or keeping it the same at seven cents. Residents of Chicago, specifically, will have to wait to see if the new tax will affect them in a positive or negative way.
The average family of four uses 1,500 plastic bags a year, which would cost them an extra $75 annually for the five cent tax or an additional $105 for the already seven-cent tax in Chicago.
“It sounds like a small minuscule tax at first but in the long run it could very easily add up, so I’m very concerned about how that could turn out,” OHS senior Zachary Gutenkauf said.
Although five cents a bag may not seem that significant, this new tax has the potential to cost Illinois shoppers a lot of money over the course of shopping throughout the year. The Illinois Senate committee has already approved the statewide tax so now it is just up to the House of Representatives in Illinois to approve or decline this bill.