Wasilla moves toward ban on plastic shopping bags

WASILLA — This box-store mecca with a libertarian stripe is suddenly moving toward a ban on disposable grocery bags.

Wasilla's city council on Monday night directed the mayor to draft a proposed ordinance banning single-use plastic bags, a step to reduce long-lived trash and litter.

Wasilla's seemingly out-of-character step comes as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough considers a 10-cents-per-bag tax for retailers that gross more than $1 million a year. The borough Assembly last month delayed any decision until December.

[Should the Mat-Su Borough tax plastic shopping bags?]

The move would disproportionately hit Wasilla retailers, officials here say.

There's only one such million-dollar-a-year store in Houston and eight in Palmer but there are 140 in this city, according to a count by Wasilla mayor Bert Cottle.

"Nobody wants us to raise $1.9 million and give it to the borough," Cottle said. "That's what would come out of Wasilla."

Under the borough's bag-tax proposal, retailers would turn over the money they collected from the 10-cents-per-bag excise tax, with a provision to keep 20 percent as a collection fee for on-time filing.

The group behind the tax calculated it could initially bring in $2.1 million, though the number was based on an extrapolation of national data. It would also probably drop as people started shopping with reusable bags.

Still, given the proliferation of million-dollar retailers in Wasilla, businesses in the city would end up responsible for the bulk of the tax payments, Cottle said. About three-quarters of the 25 people who took a survey at a town hall meeting in late August backed a ban.

"People are saying, 'Don't tax 'em,' " he said.

The Wasilla council will review the draft bag ban at a Sept. 25 meeting and could make changes then.

Any proposed ordinance will be introduced for public hearing in October.