Environmentalists face a steep uphill climb when trying to pass taxes on plastic bags at the municipal level, which has become a widespread goal for environmentalists in recent years. The taxes aren’t popular, they don’t work and they face corporate opposition from large retailers who are affected by bag taxes.

In California, the movement thought they found a way to appease at least part of their opposition: Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed a law in 2014 that prohibited single-use plastic bags and imposed a $0.10 plastic bag fee on reusable bags that would still be legal.

But the twist on the fee is that retail stores would keep the proceeds, rather than giving it to the government. This meant giant corporate retailers like Safeway wouldn’t be lining up to oppose the bans. Indeed, the California Grocers Association supported it.

Being able to get the large corporations on board with bag taxes would be a huge coup for environmentalists. Considering that the law benefits big retailers to the tune of $300 million, it wasn’t too difficult.

At the polls Tuesday, there will be two plastic bag initiatives on the ballot for Californians. One will overturn the bag ban entirely; the other will alter the way that the bag fee works by redirecting the revenue away from retailers into a government fund for environmental projects. The latter would be a shot across the bow of this environmentalist-corporatist alliance.

The big corporate retailers who were bought off by environmentalists with $300 million of plastic bag fees find themselves in a bind. They’d like to keep the plastic bag fees, but will find themselves at a massive loss if they lose the revenue.

The ballot initiative that would force the plastic bag fees back to the government polls very strongly. After all, activist environmentalists knew they’d have to buy off the corporate retailers, but actual voters may find the arrangement distasteful.

It could spell important implications for the future. Activists across the country are eyeing the model for future legislation. Philadelphia, for example, has considered an arrangement where corporate retailers would pocket 60 percent of a mandated plastic bag fee.

Voters, however, may recognize the environmental-corporate quid pro quo as what it is: corporatism dressed up to push a policy that doesn’t work, all in the name of good intentions.

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Kevin Glass is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is director of outreach and policy at The Franklin Center and was previously managing editor at Townhall. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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