I just read about the recent proposal by seven Newton City Councilors to put a tax on paper grocery bags (or “fee” as they call it). You should read it too. I view it as the latest scheme by the Newton City Council to nickel and dime Newton’s long-suffering taxpayers. It reinforces the position of the Newton Taxpayers Association that our city councilors are penny-wise and pound-foolish. I think a better use of the Newton City Council’s time would be to request a discussion with the new Newton comptroller to find out when her office will release Newton’s 2017 CAFR (Comprehensive Audited Financial Report), as it has been nearly eight months since Newton’s fiscal year closed and yet Newton has not released its audited financial report.

I fail to grasp why it is taking so long for Newton government to prepare its audited annual financial report when I consider that publicly traded businesses are able to report their audited annual reports within 60-90 days. I understand that the Newton city councilors do not want another reminder that Newton owes $1.35 billion in debt and other obligations (primarily for retirement benefit liabilities), which is about $40,000 per household. Yes Newton taxpayers, your city government incurred $1.35 billion in outstanding spending that they did not have the money for and seeks to stick you with the bill for white elephant construction projects like the new Newton North High School and to provide lavish pension and retiree healthcare benefits for unions and bureaucrats. Newton city councilors should address this instead of navel-gazing over what shopping bag people use.

What is particularly galling about the paper bag tax is that the retailer gets to keep the money collected by the new paper bag tax. I think it is morally wrong to compel retailers to force shoppers to pay 10 cents for every paper bag they use. Moreover, I still think it was wrong for Newton city councilors to ban plastic shopping bags in the first place, especially since plastic bags only represent 0.5 percent of municipal waste, plastic bags are 100 percent recyclable whereas reusable bags are not, it takes 70 percent less energy to make a plastic bag versus a paper bag and a person has to use a reusable grocery bag at least 131 times before using the reusable bag has less environmental impact than a single plastic bag.

In my January TAB column (“An Override Tax Increase By Another Name”), I noted that the city of Newton spent $7.9 Million in FY 2017 on sanitation. As plastic bags only represent 0.5 percent of municipal waste, I estimate that eliminating plastic bags would reduce Newton’s trash removal bill by a whopping $40,000 annually. We at the NTA believe that one can save more money and avoid draconian expansions in the size and scope of government powers by obtaining full-reimbursement ($9.3 million/year) for the 600 out-of-district students who do not live in Newton, but attend Newton Public Schools rather than pursuing grocery bag bans and nickel and diming people who use paper bags.

I oppose the Newton City Council’s latest efforts to nickel-and-dime shoppers in Newton. I’m actually surprised that seven of the most left-wing Democratic city councilors are sponsoring this legislation. I thought Democrats were supposed to be the party of the little guy standing up against millionaires, billionaires and huge corporations. Since when did Democrats start supporting corporate welfare for huge retailers? Given that Newton owes $1.35 billion and cannot rely on a continuing climbing real estate market, the city councilors will need to start focusing on issues of substance, such as the new labor contracts, the new budget, addressing underfunded retirement benefit liabilities, and replacing our rotting and decrepit infrastructure. We do not need a bunch of eco-fascists promulgating another draconian increase in the size and scope of government powers in order to promote their latest attempt at “government-imposed happiness.” We are adults, we decide what happiness is and we do not need the government to decide it for us.

Joshua Norman is an Auburndale resident and the vice president and policy director of the Newton Taxpayers Association.