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Snyder's proposed trash fee hike is overdue

• Feb 7, 2018 at 4:00 PM

A decade ago, Michigan Republicans managed to stop a plan passed by Democrats in the state House to raise landfill dumping fees.

The Democrats were motivated by the endless stream of Canadian trash trucks overturning and catching fire on freeway medians in southeast Michigan. In the Port Huron area, people set up office pools betting on when the next one would flip after its driver fell asleep while hauling Toronto's kitchen scraps to a Michigan landfill.

Homeowners near Lenox Township's Pine Tree Acres garbage dump put up special traffic signs to limit the damage caused by bumper-to-bumper Canadian trash haulers.

Toronto, Ontario, and some of our neighboring United States chose Michigan dumps because they were cheap.

In a 2011 accounting, Michigan's tax on garbage was 21 cents per ton. Indiana wasn't far behind, at 50 cents, but was too far from Canada. Illinois charged $2.22 per ton; Iowa, $4.50; Wisconsin, $13; Ohio, $4; and Pennsylvania $7.50.

Michigan Democrats wanted to match Pennsylvania with a $7.50 per ton fee. The GOP put a stop to what then-state Rep. Phil Pavlov called a bill "recklessly approved along county lines and under the veil of night."

Late last month, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed raising the state's landfill dumping fee from the current 36 cents per ton to $4.75. The tax — yes, it is a tax — would generate $79 million a year for environmental initiatives. It would be used to clean up contaminated sites, help local governments better manage solid waste, improve Michigan's dismal recycling rate, pay for water quality monitoring and help fix up our state parks.

A quarter of the waste dumped in Michigan during 2017 came from somewhere else. If Snyder's tax increase is approved, it would be paid by people living in Canada, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin and other places. They sent almost 12 million cubic yards of garbage to Michigan in 2017.

Higher — we call them more reasonable — dumping fees might turn that flow around. Canada sent more than 10.5 million cubic yards our way.

Overall, trash dumped in Michigan increased 3.1 percent in 2017. Most of the increase came from garbage trucked in by our neighbors — an 11 percent increase.

Snyder's proposal would cost an average Michigan household about $30 a year — assuming trash haulers and landfills don't pile on their own fee increases. Most families would agree that environmental improvements plus safer highways would be worth it.

— TIMES HERALD/PORT HURON (AP)

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