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Poll: N.J. Voters Oppose Plastic, Paper Bag Tax Proposal

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - 'Paper or plastic' could soon be a costly question in the Garden State.

A bill in the New Jersey State Senate would impose a five cent tax on all paper or plastic grocery store bags.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released on Wednesday found that 56 percent of registered New Jersey voters oppose the measure. Less than four in 10 back the fee.

Poll: N.J. Voters Oppose Plastic, Paper Bag Tax Proposal

But the bill's sponsor State Sen. Bob Smith of Middlesex County said not enough is known about the proposal.

"It's not really a tax. You actually could use this to your financial benefit where you get a store credit for bringing in your recyclable bags," Smith told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond.

Environmentalists hail the plan but many small businesses oppose the measure, arguing it would be burdensome.

"There's nothing wrong with trying to limit them, but there is something wrong with trying to tax them, particularly in a fashion that will not solve the problem," said Sal Risalvato, the head of the New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Automotive Association.

Poll: N.J. Voters Oppose Plastic, Paper Bag Tax Proposal

The organization represents hundreds of small businesses statewide.

"There is nothing in this legislation that will reduce the number of plastic bags that are put into landfills," Risalvato told WCBS 880. "People we've spoken to in polls indicate such is not the case. This is not going to cause people to all of a sudden bring their own bags."

Smith's measure is based on the model put in place by the Washington, D.C. city council.

"In DC, District of Columbia, they saw an immediate 60 percent reduction in the use of plastic and paper bags," said Smith.

The nation's capital became the first major city to impose a tax on plastic and paper bags when the measure went into effect in 2010. No state has imposed a fee on the bags.

Smith's proposal would require those who opt to use paper or plastic bags to pay five cents each. The operator of the store would keep one cent and the rest would go to the state.

WEB EXTRA: Read The Bill

The measure is aimed at reducing landfill waste and litter.

Four million plastic bags are used in New Jersey every year, according to Risalvato. He called the proposal a political money grab that would be a burden on small business owners.

More than half of those polled by FDU said they knew nothing about the issue.

If the bag tax is implemented, the revenues brought in would be earmarked for the clean-up of Barnegat Bay, Diamond reported.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 700 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from January 2 through January 6, 2013, and has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

Do you support the tax? Sound off in the comments section below...

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