ATR Opposes Senate Bill 2776

Thank you Chairman Smith, and members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Energy for listening to my testimony, and the testimony of so many others who would be impacted by a ban on bags, straws, and styrofoam containers as outlined in Senate Bill 2776.

My name is Douglas Kellogg, I am State Projects Director for Americans for Tax Reform. ATR was founded in 1985 by Grover Norquist – at the request of President Reagan – to advocate for tax reform. Today, we continue to advocate for taxpayers, and work for policy that protects taxpayers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and fosters a vibrant economic climate that enables taxes to be few, low, and simple.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to live and work in this great state, and with family who have called New Jersey home, it is an honor to be here today.

Unfortunately, the legislation I am here to voice our strong opposition to would make New Jersey a more difficult place to live, work, and do business.

A first-in-the-nation ban on plastic bags, straws, and polystyrene containers, all in one go, is an overaggressive policy that will punish your residents and businesses, introduce a slew of unintended consequences, and still may fail to provide predicted environmental rewards.

A whopping 2 million people left the state between 2006 to 2014, and that is just one metric among many showing that people cannot build a future here. Departing residents have taken more $35 billion in income with them since 1992, IRS and Census Bureau data show.

New Jersey remains dead-last in business tax climate, on the Tax Foundation’s index, behind New York and California. Your recent tax hikes are not helping. Neither is having the highest average property tax bill in the nation.

The last thing New Jersey needs are more burdens for businesses.

Despite recent month-to-month job figures improving, the state’s labor force lost 34,000 workers from August 2017 to August 2018, and 61,000 workers since January 2015, according to data from the Department of Workforce and Labor Development, and analysis from Garden State Initiative.

An incredible 78% of revenue growth projected for next year will come from tax hikes.

All these numbers go to show the tax base is being jeopardized, and revenue is leaving. And the state cannot afford to make the problem worse by piling on bans on products that create jobs, and efficiency for New Jersey businesses.

The plastics industry employs 18,000 people in New Jersey. You have companies producing styrofoam, and even those recycling it that would be hurt by a ban.  

Foam containers are relied upon by moderately priced restaurants with a high volume of take out orders. Banning them will drive up costs for these business-owners and reduce quality. Meanwhile, foam containers are convenient, reliable, FDA-approved, and safe.

Banning plastic bags means stores have to buy costlier bags and pass on costs to customers or face higher costs. The transition will burden stores. Perhaps even worse, lower income folks, and seniors who may not be able to carry around reusable bags at work or in a car will end up paying more.

Plastic bag replacements must be used many times more than a plastic bag to maintain a similar environmental footprint.

The straw ban is a moral panic driven by social-media-era virtue signaling and phony numbers crafted by a grade-schooler.

Beyond imposing new costs on businesses, unintended consequences of a straw ban will hurt people with certain disabilities who rely on straws.

For what benefit?

An analysis by the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) found 90% of plastic going into the sea comes from 10 rivers, eight in Asia and Africa. The legislation you are considering will not help this issue.

New Jersey is considering attacking these industries with a move more radical than your eastern neighbor New York, and while your western neighbor in Pennsylvania is fostering first-in-the-region infrastructure for natural gas and plastics that will create billions of dollars in value and new jobs.

We urge you to reject Senate Bill 2776 and Assembly Bill 4330 and instead focus on recycling and proper disposal of these materials, rather than a heavy-handed ban that will make New Jersey less attractive and competitive in the region – and further chase away jobs and taxpayers.

Thank you.