Seattle voters don't buy shopping-bag charge
Seattle voters have turned down Referendum 1, which aimed to reduce throwaway bag use in Seattle by charging shoppers 20 cents for each disposable plastic or paper shopping bag provided by stores.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle voters firmly rejected Referendum 1, which would have made Seattle the first city in the nation to go after both plastic and paper shopping bags.
The defeat — 58 percent to 42 percent, with more than half of the expected votes counted — means an ordinance passed by the Seattle City Council last year will not take effect. Had Referendum 1 passed, grocers, convenience marts and drugstores would have charged shoppers 20 cents for each bag they were provided at checkout counters.
Supporters of the charge pinned the loss on a heavily funded opponent that outspent them 15-to-1, but they said the campaign had laid the grass-roots foundation for future efforts.
"Big money can come in and run deceptive scare campaigns, but in the end, people who care will defeat the people who scare," said Green Bag Campaign spokesman Brady Montz.
Most of the anti-fee campaign's $1.4 million came from the Virginia-based American Chemistry Council. Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission staff said that group's $500,000 contribution in mid-July was the largest for a local ballot measure in recent history.
"I think the results confirm what the coalition has said from the beginning, that it was a costly and unnecessary tax," said Adam Parmer, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax. "I think you saw Seattle voters saying that this was not the right approach to protecting our environment."
The city hoped the 20-cent charge would encourage Seattle consumers to stop using throwaway shopping bags and instead take their purchases home in recycled bags or reusable totes, reducing waste.
Stores with annual revenues of less than $1 million would have kept the 20 cents to cover their costs, while those grossing more would have kept 25 percent and passed the rest on to the city for recycling, environmental education and reusable bags for low-income consumers.
The City Council ordinance was to take effect this year, but opposition forces quickly collected enough signatures to put the issue before voters.
Opponents regularly labeled the charge a tax rather than a fee and called it unnecessary and misguided. They said it would backfire — that as throwaway bags were phased out, people who now reuse them at home in various ways would start buying sturdier plastic bags that are even worse for the environment.
Marc Ramirez: 206-464-8102 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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