Kentucky legislators again are debating a tax on beverage containers to pay for environmental cleanup, pushed by the same political leader who championed a bottle bill last year.
A House committee voted 20-7 Feb. 20 to adopt a plan from House Majority Leader Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, that would put a half-cent tax on all fast-food cups and most beverage cans and bottles. The tax would raise $30 million to clean up the state's illegal garbage dumps and litter, said Stumbo aide Barbara Rhoads.
"Greg will never give up his zeal to get the soft-drink industry to pay for their own waste," Rhoads said.
The measure is one of three floating around the Kentucky Legislature, including one pushed by Gov. Paul Patton that would mandate garbage collection and cleanup, and an industry-sponsored plan in the Senate that would set up anti-litter education and awareness campaign.
Rudy Underwood, southern region government affairs director for the American Plastics Council's Atlanta office, said Stumbo is asking the beverage and bottling industry to foot the bill to solve a broader problem.
"[Stumbo] has selected a limited number of items in the waste stream and said he is going to fix the problem for everyone else by taxing them," Underwood said.
Rhoads said Kentucky does not have more money in its general fund, and she said neighboring states have similar taxes on beverage containers, assessed at the distribution level, to fund environmental cleanup.
Stumbo's plan may pass the Democrat-controlled House, but it will be tough to get it through the Republican-controlled Senate because the Senate opposes all tax increases, Rhoads said.
APC's Underwood added: "In my opinion, I think we will have somewhat of a stalemate. I don't think the House is going to accept the provisions of the Senate bill. I don't think the Senate will adopt the House bill."
Stumbo also has introduced legislation that calls for a referendum on container deposits, as he did last year.