Photos: Leggett Tries to Prepare Shoppers for County Bag Tax
Under a new Montgomery County law, paper or plastic bags from retailers cost customers five cents.
Dozens of shoppers popping into Safeway in Hillandale got more than the bargains they were looking for, finding themselves being greeted by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett handing out reusable grocery bags.
Leggett visited the store Tuesday morning to give away hundreds of such bags to help customers mitigate a new cost for shoppers -- paying a nickel for each paper or plastic grocery bag under the county’s bag tax, which took effect Jan. 1.
“We're making a very strong effort in the next few days to make sure we get the word out, to make sure people understand the law,” Leggett said. The county executive introduced the bill last spring and it passed the County Council in May 2011 with just one opposing vote. (Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) was a vocal opponent.)
The tax is expected to generate about a million dollars in revenue this year, according to Leggett. The money will go toward solid waste management, watershed restoration, litter pick-up and stormwater management.
“This is not a revenue generator for us,” Leggett explained. “Montgomery County’s budget is about $4.6 billion so a million is hardly a revenue source that is going to make a difference in Montgomery County.
“If we get more money, that means we’re not as successful,” he continued. “We would prefer to have less money. That means people are using the bags.”
A spokesperson for Safeway’s DC-area stores said the company doesn’t “necessarily” support the tax, but that stores have tried to get on board to avoid passing on a cost to customers. Signs were posted near entrances and at checkstands to remind customers about the tax.
“It’s our goal that no one has to pay a nickel, we hope that everyone brings a reusable bag,” said Gregory TenEyck, director of public affairs for Safeway’s eastern division.
“The nickel is enough to encourage people to bring reusable bags, but it’s also not so much that people are being dramatically affected financially," he said. "It’s an inconvenience to have to pay an extra nickel, dime, quarter for some bags that you used to get for free.”
Trisha Chicas, a Hillandale resident, was prepared to pay a few cents extra before Leggett handed her a couple of complimentary bags.
“It’s a lot of work to bring your bags,” she said. “Sometimes you forget, you have kids […] I have two [reusable bags] and I forgot them.
“I understand the point in a way, but I think people will still forget,” Chicas said.