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State

Environmentalists, shoppers differ on Illinois bag tax

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is congratulated by lawmakers after delivering his first budget address to a joint session of the llinois House and Senate at the Illinois State Capitol on Feb. 20 in Springfield.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is congratulated by lawmakers after delivering his first budget address to a joint session of the llinois House and Senate at the Illinois State Capitol on Feb. 20 in Springfield.

CHICAGO – Environmentalists are praising Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposal for a 5-cent tax on all plastic bags used at checkouts across the state, but not all shoppers are excited about the idea.

Jim Pruim, a truck driver from the Chicago suburb of Willowbrook, told the Chicago Tribune that while the bag tax alone wouldn’t present a financial hardship, he’s concerned about the government expanding what it taxes.

“Pretty soon they’re going to be taxing the air that you breathe,” said Pruim, 57.

Pritzker proposed the bag tax during his inaugural address as a way to reduce waste and raise revenue. The tax could generate between $19 million and $23 million, according to the state’s budget proposal.

Chicago residents have had to pay a 7-cent tax on disposable bags since 2017, while Oak Park enacted a 10-cent bag fee in January 2018. It’s unclear if Chicago would be exempt from the 5-cent state tax.

Chicago residents have had a hard time accepting the city tax and likely won’t support another tax, said Vanessa Dremonas, executive officer for family owned Pete’s Fresh Market, which has 13 grocery stores in the Chicago area.

“There has been resistance – many people just don’t want to pay,” Dremonas said.

The state tax would encourage residents to bypass disposable bags, said Jordan Parker, executive director of Bring Your Bag Chicago.

“I would love to see the tax increase to 12 cents,” Parker said. “We’ve had a couple of years to acclimate to this tax and I think most of Chicago is used to it. I think increasing it to 12 cents would just be another little nudge in the right direction.”

Chicago’s bag tax generated $5.6 million in 2017 and $5.9 million last year, Department of Finance spokeswoman Kristen Cabanban said.

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