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Plastic bag tax initiative to hit Assembly tonight

Posted: August 7, 2011 - 8:39pm

A citizen petition initiative will reach the Assembly tonight, calling for a tax on each plastic bag a person receives at some retailers.

The initiative would place a 15-cent tax on each plastic bag a person gets from a store. There is an exemption for senior citizens who have CBJ senior citizen identification.

This proposal would not apply to all retail stores within the city and borough, but would only apply to stores that have an annual gross revenue of $15 million or more, with an average taken across five years.

The tax dollars collected would function the same as a regular sales tax, and would go to the city’s General Fund.

“It is the purpose of the tax imposed under this chapter to minimize the use of plastic shopping bags and encourage the use of reusable shopping bags, thereby reducing the impact of discarded bags on the marine and land environment of Juneau and Southeast Alaska and contributing to the general revenue of the City and Borough,” the proposed ordinance states.

When an initiative petition has enough signatures and is brought to the city clerk, it must immediately be brought forth to the Assembly.

On Monday the Assembly has several options for this proposal: introduce the ordinance, table it, vote it down (which would send it to the voters), or send it to committee. The Assembly has 45 days to take action on the initiative, but the clerk’s deadline for ballot preparation is Aug. 22, so any action after that date would push a voter-based decision to next year’s election.

In other business, the Assembly is expected to take action on extending the temporary 3 percent sales tax. It will look at sending the measure to the voters. The tax is set to expire in July 2012. The proposed initiative extends the tax for five years, and keeps the same allocation as currently exists — 1 percent to police, fire, street maintenance, libraries, etc.; 1 percent to roads, drainage, sidewalks, retaining walls and other capital improvements; and 1 percent to Assembly allocated capital improvement projects like water and sewer system extensions, emergency budget reserve, youth activities, and other public services.

The Assembly also will:

• Hear a rezoning request for a parcel on Atlin Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road from D10 to Light Commercial.

• Take action on approval of an additional $2 million for the airport runway safety project. Funds will come from a Federal Aviation Administration grant.

• Decide about appropriating $250,000 for purchasing a new street sweeper for Mendenhall Valley — which will only be used in that area of town. Funding comes from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities from the Federal Government Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality program. Since funds come from that program and Mendenhall Valley is designated as a non-attainment area, the sweeper can only be used in that area.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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