Colorado Springs Plastic Bag Tax Ballot Issue Heats Up

Photo Credit: The Gazette

During the June 22nd Colorado Springs City Council Work Session, Councilwoman Yolanda Avila presented her new pet project. She has her sights set on a potential ballot issue for the November 3rd election. If passed, the new ordinance intends to change the behavior of shoppers. Avila wants consumers to pay for every plastic bag taken out of a Colorado Springs store. Whether the bag contains your groceries, clothes, or building supplies, the consumer will be charged.

Councilwoman Avila is calling it a “fee.” We’re going to call it what it really is —it’s a tax. The tax is 10 cents per bag. The plan is for the stores to keep 4 cents, while the City of Colorado Springs pockets the remaining 6 cents. Colorado Springs Chief Financial Officer Charae McDaniel estimates the tax would raise $937,000 – $1.7 million per year.

The majority of the money would be used to clean up the litter that is being strewn around the City’s transient camps. Whatever funds are left over would be used for administrative costs. Dee Cunningham from “Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful” was knee-deep in her presentation at the work session about the $45,000 per year litter clean-up contract with the City, when Richard Skorman cut her comments short. It appeared to us that Mr. Skorman thought Cunningham was going into too much detail. She had just given Council the low-down on exactly how much garbage her group picked up over a 13-month period of time. Transient camps were the biggest problem, accounting for 1,474 volunteer hours, 6,813 bags of debris, and 713 needles removed.

Responsible citizens are not the litterers, though. How exactly did you get on the hook for paying for clean-up (through a tax) when you didn’t make the mess?

Councilman Wayne Williams expressed unease with using government to coerce people into certain behaviors. Also, he worried about the additional administrative cost burden on small businesses.

Councilman Andy Pico called it a “littering issue”, and did not support moving forward with a ballot issue. Pico has a philosophical objection to government jumping in and saying, “you’re not going to use a plastic bag.”

Councilman Tom Strand referred to reusable grocery bags as being “disease ridden”. Also, he disagreed with the timing of the issue, as many families are struggling right now.

We applaud Mr. Williams, Mr. Pico, and Mr. Strand, as they grasp what a Boulder-esque move this tax would be for Colorado Springs.

Councilman David Geislinger didn’t want to move forward with a ballot issue to let the people decide. In fact, Geislinger didn’t want citizen input at all! He wanted Council to simply pass an ordinance taxing the plastic bags.

Councilman Don Knight and Councilwoman Jill Gaebler requested more information and want more Council discussion about the issue.

Councilwoman Yolanda Avila, City Council President Richard Skorman, and Councilman Bill Murray all support moving this forward to another Council meeting and getting it on the ballot. Ms. Avila compared this tax to the water restrictions that were put in place a few months back. We’re not in a drought, but it’s all about modifying behavior.

Plastic bag taxes are a very inflammatory issue on’s social media pages.

Pre-register for the plastic bag tax virtual town hall on Wednesday, July 29th from 6-7:30. Email to attend virtually.  Also, share your thoughts with our Council members, so they don’t have the slightest doubt about where you stand on the issue. We expect to see this tax discussed further, as well as a decision about moving it forward to the November ballot during the Tuesday, August 11th City Council meeting.

Reach out and give Council your polite comments.

Wayne Williams

Tom Strand

Bill Murray

Andres Pico

Jill Gaebler

Yolanda Avila

Richard Skorman

David Geislinger

Don Knight

4 thoughts on “Colorado Springs Plastic Bag Tax Ballot Issue Heats Up

  1. Wow what about making the HOMELESS (Transient) clean up that stuff themselves if not give them tickets, better yet move them to the north end of town. Or imagine just get them out of the Springs.

  2. Plastic bags are not littering the town. It simply is not a problem. Those council members who want to tax plastic bags ought to know what we think about stealth taxes.

  3. I also want to point out that among the cities that have enacted bag taxes, the very next object of their attention is a ban on polystyrene, the kind of foam that is used in all sorts of food packaging, especially meat, and the clamshell take out containers.

  4. How do you tax something that is free? It is offered by the store owner as a convenience, and is not required. So, how does the city council figure they have a right to stick their nose into a private business? Last year the Mayor said he would leave it up to the store owners… where is he NOW? Why is it MY job to fund the cleanup behind bums?

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