Boulder ignores TABOR with new bag ‘fee’


As Erica Meltzer explained in the Daily Camera, Boulder staff had recommended a 20-cent “fee” per bag, but some council members “raised concerns about how the city had arrived at the 20-cent fee.”

Not surprisingly, Boulder boasted a study from consultants allegedly justifying even the higher tax.

“Consultants from TischlerBise Inc. looked at what plastic bags now cost, both directly and in indirect costs to the area’s waste management companies, who sometimes have to stop equipment and pull out bags by hand,” Meltzer wrote. “They also looked at what it would cost to administer a bag fee, including additional costs to grocery stores and costs to the city for education and distribution of free, reusable bags.

“They arrived at a 20-cent fee, with 4 cents staying with the retailers. City officials say they think the ‘nexus study’ that connects the fee to actual costs incurred by the city means the fee is not a tax and does not have to go on the ballot.”

But unless all of the charge goes to offsetting the city’s true costs for handling bags – and isn’t trash disposal already being paid for? — then the idea that it’s a fee is a ruse, as I explained in this column last year.

Incidentally, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers foundation is suing Aspen in Pitkin County District Court over a 20 cent bag “fee” there, claiming city officials ignored the mandate of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that all taxes be approved by a vote of the people.

If a city wants to ban disposable grocery bags, so be it. They have that authority. But they don’t have the right to impose a tax and call it a few.

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