TRAVERSE CITY RECORD EAGLE
January 20, 2006
In 2004, state Republican lawmakers passed bills they vowed would stop the importation of Canadian trash in its tracks.
The bills didn’t stem the flow by a single bag.
In 2005, the GOP passed a ban on out-of-state trash, but it would go into effect only if Congress agreed. It didn’t get a second look.
Now, state Democrats are making big promises about a ballot issue proposed for November.
If we’re silly enough to vote yes, the scheme would probably work. But every homeowner in the state would pay dearly for it, probably for years to come. It needs to be trashed long before November.
All the political posturing is because Michigan has become the dumping ground for trash from Canada and even New Jersey. Why? It’s cheaper and easier here.
While other states raised landfill rates and beefed up regulations and enforcement, Michigan let things slide to the point where we became the trash bargain of the century.
Trash haulers pay a paltry 21 cents a ton to dump here, compared to $3.74 in Wisconsin, $4 in Illinois, $4.75 in Iowa and $7.25 in Pennsylvania.
It’s a staggering price gap that no municipal government in its right mind would pass up. And they haven’t.
Simply banning trash won’t work. Under the North American Free Trade Act, garbage is a commodity, just like automobiles, and few restrictions can be placed on its trade.
It’s a significant problem for Michigan. Valuable landfill space is being eaten up by outstate garbage, which means we’ll have to build more landfills, each one a potential environmental threat.
The Democrats’ solution? Throw your money at it. Their ballot initiative would raise the dumping fee in Michigan from 21 cents per ton to $7.50. That may stem some Canadian trash. But it would also represent a more than 35-fold hike for in-state trash haulers – a hike that would surely be passed on to residents.
The GOP put the cost at $150 million a year.
A lawmaker who suggested a hike of that magnitude in any tax or fee could expect to be run out of town on a rail. That’s what needs to happen to this bill.
We need a solution to trash imports, but this isn’t it. And if this is the best thinking on the issue on the Democratic side, they have more problems than trash.
House Minority Leader Dianne Byrum (D-Onondaga) has said trash importation is the Democrats’ No. 1 issue. In a state that is bleeding jobs and where public schools are going broke, that’s almost laughable.
But no one will be laughing if their trash bill jumps a couple hundred percent.