Stuff the bag ‘tax’

Dear Editor:

When I moved my family to Aspen in May 1994, the debate regarding paid parking in Aspen was just heating up. John Bennett (Aspen’s mayor at that time) pitched paid parking as the panacea to relieve traffic and parking congestion in the city’s core.

I argued vociferously with the honorable Mr. Bennett that social engineering projects rarely achieve their stated goals, and that his paid parking proposal was a ruse whose main purpose was to raise ever-more revenue for the city’s coffers.

I just sat in 25 minutes of traffic from the ABC to run some errands in Aspen. Obviously, if paid parking’s primary purpose was to relieve traffic and parking congestion, it has failed miserably. On the other side of the coin, you might recall when the Aspen City Council voted to suspend paid parking on Fridays during the month of May this year, Mayor Mick Ireland whined that the financial loss in paid parking revenues was such that another $900,000 in sales around town would be needed to make it worthwhile.

Looks like I was correct on both points. The reason I bring this up now has more to do with Basalt, where I moved my business 2.5 years ago in part to relieve myself of Aspen’s parking tax. Basalt is considering a 20-cent tax on each and every plastic bag dispensed within its boundaries, including the El Jebel City Market.

Last week I counted 20 plastic bags amongst the debris when I finished shelving the weekly groceries I had just purchased at City Market.

Twenty bags per week multiplied by 52 weeks multiplied by 20 cents per bag, totals a $208/year additional tax that I would end up paying to the town of Basalt for the right to bring my groceries home in clean, plastic bags. That’s a $208 tax increase for a family of three.

In other words, the tax amounts to approximately $69 per person, per year.

While the notion of saving whales and dolphins (or whatever ruse is being propagated this time out) is laudable, make no mistake: The Basalt Town Council sees dollar signs. For every 1,000 people that do most of their shopping at the City Market, Basalt will raise $69,000 per year in additional revenue. While I love Basalt, I am at wits’ end shopping at the ever-over-crowded/under-staffed El Jebel City Market, and am looking for any reason to start buying groceries further downvalley.

Politicians of all stripes love tax revenues, and prefer to cloak them in politically correct clothing. Please don’t swallow the hook, line, and sinker – again.


Russ Andrews