Retailers in Santa Fe will soon start charging a 10-cent fee for each paper bag provided to customers.
By a 7-2 vote, city councilors approved a bill that will clear the way for City Hall to start collecting that fee revenue from retail establishments and put the money toward environmental programs.
The bill's passage comes more than a year after the implementation of a ban on certain plastic bags in Santa Fe, a move that largely led to most stores switching to paper bags. Officials initially imposed the 10-cent charge as a part of that ban in order to encourage consumers to start shopping with reusable bags.
Paper bags take a toll on the environment, too, pointed out a handful of children who testified in support of the bill in the April 29 meeting.
"Guess what?" District 4 Councilor Ron Trujillo, said of paper bags, "At one time they were a tree."
But officials removed the 10-cent charge after concerns that it constituted an illegal tax. Because that money will go toward specific environmental programs—like waste reduction, providing free reusable bags to Santa Feans and environmental education—it's now a "fee" and not a tax.
That didn't convince Trujillo, who still considers it a tax. He voted against the bill—which Councilors Peter Ives, Sig Lindell and Chris Rivera sponsored. Councilor Bill Dimas also voted against it, too.
District 3 Councilor Carmichael Dominguez said that if consumers don't want to pay the extra dime, then they should shop with reusable bags.
"The reality is that these young people are going to be the taxpayers who are going to have to clean up the mess that I and my generation are making," he said.
"I’m lending my voice and my vote to the rhetoric of saying climate change is real," said Mayor Javier Gonzales before casting a vote in favor of the bill.