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Mat-Su

No plastic bag tax for Mat-Su, borough assembly rules

PALMER — Days after the Valley's big-box mecca banned disposable plastic shopping bags, the Mat-Su Assembly killed a boroughwide bag tax proposal.

The Assembly on Tuesday postponed indefinitely any action on the 10-cent-per bag excise tax for retailers making $1 million or more. The proposal first surfaced last summer.

It would have required retailers turn over the money they collected from the tax, with a provision to keep 20 percent as a collection fee for on-time filing.

Then a simpler plan emerged from Wasilla, where officials say 140 large retailers — including Walmart, Sears and Target — do business, compared to nine in the borough's other two cities of Palmer and Houston.

Wasilla's city council voted Jan. 8 to ban plastic shopping bags at big box stores starting July 1, making the city Alaska's third (after Bethel and Cordova) to officially outlaw the bags that clog roadsides, catch in trees and pose a threat to fish and wildlife.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Mat-Su Assembly member Barbara Doty proposed indefinitely postponing the borough's bag tax "based on the good work the city of Wasilla has done."

The action, which effectively kills the bag-tax ordinance, passed without opposition.

Doty said it's possible a boroughwide plastic bag decision could go before voters during local elections in October.

Palmer's city council will discuss plastic bags at a meeting next month. City Manager Nathan Wallace says the council hasn't taken a position, but he's spoken against a tax.

The Assembly's decision this week "took the pressure off" Palmer officials for now. But, he said, the council is watching another, broader proposal.

State Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, is proposing a statewide 20-cent tax on disposable plastic bags to be paid by customers, not retailers.

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