Watch Out for an Increased Fee on Bottles and Cans

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

At the end of the legislative session, members of the State Assembly and Senate go on a mad dash to pass legislation before adjourning for the year.

It’s a great time to slip controversial items into “must-pass” appropriations bills, and the flurry of activity guarantees that some controversial items will make it into law without much debate.

One such item is a new and expanded tax – disguised as a “fee” – offered up by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley. Skinner is trying to add an amendment to Assembly Bill 983 – a bill expanding after school activities – that would raise millions by doubling the California Redemption Value (CRV) on some beverages. It would also impose a CRV fee on larger juices, which currently are not subject to the fee.

The CRV fee was established in 1986. Its purpose was to encourage recycling by requiring consumers to pay a fee for each can or bottle they bought in the store, which he or she could collect when the used container was turned in to a recycling center. Since not everyone turns their used cans and bottles in to the recycling center, the fund took in more money than it paid out for returns and that money was used for environmental cleanup, recycling program, and for grants to local governments. When first imposed, the fee was 1 cent per container. It’s now five cents for beverage containers under 24 ounces, and ten cents for larger containers. Skinner’s amendment would bring in an additional millions per year.

Why are some legislators so eager to raise the CRV fee? It turns out that the legislature has been “borrowing” from the CRV fund for the past several years – to the tune of $566 million. The CRV fund is now insolvent and can’t pay for any of the programs described above.

And apparently the Legislature can’t pay back the money they’ve borrowed. Hence their “solution”: Raise millions in new “fees” from Californians who buy juice, soda and beer.

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