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Pay extra to paint the town

Published (3/13/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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Beginning Sept. 1, applying a fresh coat of paint could cost a bit more, under a bill approved by the House Environment Policy and Oversight Committee March 10.

HF569, sponsored by Rep. Brita Sailer (DFL-Park Rapids), would attach a yet-to-be determined fee onto each gallon of “architectural” paint purchased by consumers. Such paint is applied to buildings, and does not include artist paint, paintballs or other types.

Paint is one more example in a long list of products gaining attention for “end-of-life management” for environmental reasons. Sailer said the user fee would shift the disposal/recycling costs onto the consumer rather than burden local governments, which don’t fully recover their costs for accepting household hazardous waste.

Paint manufacturers and retailers support the bill and would form a nonprofit third-party program committee to oversee a pilot paint stewardship program. They need legislative backing to prevent a breach of federal anti-trust regulations.

If successful, Minnesota could be the model for a national paint stewardship program, said Mike Weber, chief operations officer for Hirshfield’s Paint. “We really would like to see this pilot program go through to see if, in fact, we don’t have different legislation going on in 50 states all the way down to the county level.”

A pending appropriation cannot exceed assessment costs for the pilot project.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Wabasha) called the fee a “tax” that could be collected against the will of the consumer. Sailer disagreed and said the fee does not meet the definition of a tax.

The committee approved it on a split-voice vote and referred it to the House Commerce and Labor Committee. A companion, SF477, sponsored by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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