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World & Nation

New York poised to pass plastic bag ban and tolls for driving in Manhattan

FILE- In this March 27, 2019 file photo, oranges and tomatoes are displayed for sale alongside a rol
A roll of plastic bags at a market in New York City’s East Village.
(Mary Altaffer / AP)

New York’s Democrat-controlled Legislature on Sunday passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and planned to approve tolls for driving into the busiest sections of Manhattan starting in 2021 as part of a $175.5 billion state budget agreement worked out with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Assembly and Senate passed the plastic bag ban legislation as part of a 2019-2020 state fiscal year spending plan due to be in place Monday.

Other agreements in the budget include the closure of up to three yet-to-be-determined state prisons, eliminating cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony arrests, a permanent, annual 2% cap on local property taxes, and another $1 billion for public education.

In an agreement reached earlier last week but not officially announced until Sunday, most single-use plastic bags provided by supermarkets and other stores would be banned statewide starting March 1, 2020. Individual counties would have the option of charging 5 cents for paper bags, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

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New York would be just the third state with a statewide ban. California’s ban has been in place since 2016. All of Hawaii’s counties ban plastic bags but it’s not a state-mandated ban.

Major issues that didn’t make it into the spending plan include legalization of recreational marijuana.

The Manhattan tolls plan known as congestion pricing will be the first of its kind in the nation. State leaders said a review board will determine the toll amount and exemptions and credits for drivers headed into the borough’s central business district. The billions the tolls are expected to raise will go toward fixing New York City’s ailing mass transit system, though a portion of the revenue will go to the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.

An earlier estimate had put the toll amount for personal vehicles at nearly $12. Cuomo said without the tolls, either the subways could continue to deteriorate or fares for subways and city buses would have had to go up 30%.

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“That was the choice,” he said of the toll. “You need a viable mass transit system.”

The state budget also will include two other dedicated revenue sources for the subways: a “mansion tax” on Manhattan homes that sell for $25 million or higher, and an internet sales tax levied on retailers who sell merchandise online.

The funding streams for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority include a reorganization plan and other reforms Cuomo has demanded for the agency that runs the city’s buses, subways and commuter trains.

In addition to eliminating cash bail for some charges, other criminal justice reforms include requiring prosecutors and defense lawyers to share all case information well in advance of trials, and speeding up the time it takes for a case to go to trial.


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