The California Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors last week voted to oppose the California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative, which proposes a new tax of up to $0.01 on every piece of single-use plastic packaging and food ware sold in California beginning in 2022.
The CalChamber Board also voted to support the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, a proposed initiative that would amend the California Constitution to change procedures for approving state and local tax increases to improve information and accountability to taxpayers and strengthen voter approval procedures.
Tax on Packaging
OPPOSE: The California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative
The California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations Initiative would impose a tax on virtually all consumer goods packaging, including packaging for food products, and a tax on some single-use plastic products. If enacted, this new tax on businesses selling in or into California will also increase for inflation beginning in 2030.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated the tax would be “several billion dollars” annually, with some industry estimations coming in as high as $8 billion a year.
Of particular concern is that much of the tax revenue from this initiative is diverted to special interest programs to address a variety of environmental concerns, rather than being focused on reinvesting into the recycling and composting systems necessary to ensure a circular economy can be achieved.
Additionally, this initiative creates a new source reduction requirement on businesses to reduce by 25% the total amount of single-use plastic packaging and food ware by both weight and number of items sold by 2030.
Further, the initiative bans food vendors from distributing expanded polystyrene food service containers and establishes other requirements on producers, such as mandatory take-back and deposit programs, recyclable, reusable, refillable and compostable mandates.
This source reduction mandate is infeasible and fails to account for population growth. Moreover, the initiative ignores infrastructure needs to comply with these requirements, such as permitting challenges and technological needs, and it would exacerbate supply chain problems across all sectors relying on this packaging.
Finally, none of these flaws in the initiative could be fixed by the Legislature, since the measure limits any amendments to those that “further the purpose” of the initiative, and only then with a two-thirds supermajority of the Legislature.
SUPPORT: The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act
Over the last five years, several significant loopholes have been carved into California’s historic voter approval system for new or increased taxes.
For example, several court of appeal decisions have interpreted a California Supreme Court decision (Upland) to permit local special tax increases with majority voter approval if the tax increase was placed on the ballot by voter initiative, rather than by the local agency’s governing board.
The jurisprudence following the Upland decision has effectively repealed the two-thirds voter approval requirement for local special taxes. The requirement for a supermajority voter approval of local special taxes has been a cornerstone of the tax reform initiated by Proposition 13 in 1978.
The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act will close this loophole and several others, and will enact new accountability measures, especially information for voters and binding commitments on the period of the tax increase and use of the revenues.
The measure also enacts a new requirement that any statewide tax increases or new taxes, in addition to being approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature, also receive majority approval by voters in a statewide election. The initiative also requires that any new fees be approved by the state Legislature.