Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's all about the Hamiltons

20 GOTO 10

This is very Jerseyan. The Senate would like electronics manufacturers to recycle more - not a bad thing, and many already do this. Dell offers to take your old system away for free when you get a new one, and, according to the article, "Heather Bowman, who heads the internal recycling division at Hewlett Packard, said her company has long maintained buildings in California and Tennessee dedicated to reclaiming discarded electronics." But the state wants to add more: a ten dollar surcharge, to be passed on to the consumer, when purchasing the electronics. It would cover microwaves, TVs, computers, and cell phones, to name a few.

The headline of the article, "State studies $10 recycling surcharge," is a little misleading. The bill (S-557) has already been drafted and has escaped committee. This sounds like it's already been studied and found credible, and thus has been forwarded to the whole Senate for a vote.
"Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon/Warren, questioned the fairness of the measure. He said the bill is the latest in a number of fees and nuisance taxes New Jersey residents are facing. Lance said he hopes it is not indicative of a coming trend to "nickel and dime" citizens."

Not that Mr. Lance is the taxpayers' knight in shining armor. " 'If there is a need for a recycling charge it should occur at the time of the recycling,' Lance said." Gee, thanks. It almost sounds like someone in the state Senate took a dare from a colleague -

Hey, Len, I bet you I can pass a surcharge on recycling TVs, and also pass a law requiring people to recycle them!

No way, Bob. People would notice.

Not only can I do it - I bet you double that I can put both provisions in the SAME BILL.

[laughing] You're crazy, man. Right out there. I love it.

The article doesn't tell you the man who took the dare, but I looked it up: S-557 is sponsored by Robert G. Smith, D-Middlesex. The article raises the possibility, perhaps overlooked by Mr. Smith, that businesses will move to neighboring states to dodge the surcharge. One possibility not mentioned is that, given the extra $10, people may put off new purchases of these items, leading to the state coming out behind - losing more in sales taxes not collected than they gain with the surcharge. Another expense is a provision to "give manufacturers 12 months from the effective date to curb the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and other toxics in favor of less-harmful alternatives."

Again, not a terrible idea, though businesses will naturally pass along some of the R&D costs of these alternatives. I just wish that the state would consider its citizens a little more - if the products themselves are already going to be more expensive, then the tax bite on them ought to be enough of a boost to the general treasury. Why a surcharge as well?

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