Would a tax by any other name smell as bad?

8 Sep 2011

This October 1st, the price of garbage disposal in Michigan will likely go up as the State has enacted an increase in the “tipping fee” that gets charged on every yard of cubic waste disposed of in Michigan.  The bill hasn’t hit the Governor’s desk but is expected to shortly and he is expected to sign it.  

While the increase from 7 cents to 12 cents per yard doesn’t sound like much, the increase will result in waste generators paying $4.8 Million to Lansing, up $1.9 Million from the amount annually paid. 

This raises a few questions.  First, is this diversion from waste generators (you and me) to the government a good thing?  Are the programs funded by the “fee” something that we, the taxpayers, want to fund?  Next, should the State be funding its solid waste program in reliance on waste disposal – effectively making the State a pro-waste state? Also, is this “fee” a fee or a tax?

The “fee” may be used for such things as:

  • Guidance regarding the solid waste permit and license program or its implementation or enforcement.
  • Reviewing applications for permits or licenses, including the cost of public notice and public hearings.
  • Performing an advisory analysis of a proposed disposal area’s likely success.
  • General costs of the permit and license program.
  • Inspection of licensed disposal areas and open dumps.
  • Implementing and enforcing permits or licenses.
  • Groundwater monitoring audits at licensed disposal areas.
  • Reviewing and acting upon corrective action plans for licensed disposal areas.
  • Reviewing certifications of closure.
  • Postclosure maintenance and monitoring inspections and review.
  • Review of bonds and financial assurance documentation at licensed disposal areas.
  • Postclosure maintenance and monitoring of previously licensed closed disposal areas when the owner is no longer required to do so.
  • Conducting closure, or postclosure maintenance and monitoring and corrective action when the owner or operator has failed to do so.
  • If this sounds like a tax to you, as it supports general governmental functions unrelated to a licensee’s license, it does to me also.  There’s case law that says it is not but the Michigan Supreme Court hasn’t spoken on this subject.  Ultimately, the waste companies won’t complain – they will simply pass it on to you and me and our businesses, driving up the cost and allowing those in power to say that they haven’t raised “taxes.”

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