Sen Mike Gabbard
Sen Mike Gabbard

Senator Mike Gabbard has been consumed by plastic bags – well not literally – but they have been his primary focus this legislative session.

Gabbard, who chairs the Senate Energy and Environment committee, wants to ban them – he talks about how they are polluting his community. But instead he is content to tax both paper and plastic bags.

A bill to add a 10-cent tax to consumer bags was resurrected yesterday in his committee. The amount of the tax has changed in different versions.

Some stores, such as Safeway and Times Supermarkets, are supporting the increase because they get a percentage.

The rest of the money would go to the state’s various funds and another $800,000 will be deposited into the Department of Health to set up the infrastructure and hire the people needed to collect and manage these funds.

Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said the tax is a “money grab” that has nothing to do with the environment. He said if the tax was really being collected to help the environment, funds would be directed there and not toward several other funds.

Gabbard also stuffed the bag bill with additional contents that include a new tax on dietary supplement drinks. Currently these are exempt from the 6-cent bottle container tax.

The House is expected to continue to oppose the measure.