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Some Renew Efforts To Repeal Baltimore Bottle Tax

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Some Baltimore business owners say the city’s new bottled beverage tax isn’t fair and they’ve renewed efforts to repeal it.  But as Gigi Barnett explains, the city says that tax is law and it plans to begin enforcing the collection.

In the last few months, Baltimore’s bottled beverage tax swept thousands of dollars into the city’s coffers.  That means Baltimore is on track to raise nearly $6 million with the tax.  City leaders say it’s money needed to avoid dozens of layoffs and cuts to services, but they say some store owners aren’t paying up.

“We found that some of the businesses that are subject to the tax are slow to pay and some are refusing,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Most businesses want the tax gone.  It charges customers an extra two cents on beverages like soda and beer.  Milk, natural fruit juices and bottles that are two liters and larger aren’t included in the tax.

“It’s very unfair for just the city stores to have a bottle tax imposed on them,” said Sandy Vary.

Vary owns the Bi-Rite on Belair Road.  It’s not far from the county/city line.  While her store is paying the tax, she has had to choose between paying workers or the tax.  And she says she fears customers will soon go elsewhere.

“Many of our customers shop in the county.  They have cars and they travel and they look for the best deals,” Vary said.  “Certainly we’re not able to offer them in certain packages on sodas.”

Collecting on the beverage tax began in August.  Now the city says it has more than enough tax to begin enforcing the tax.  That starts next month.

“It would involve making their bill due and, just like any other tax bill, you have the liability if you don’t pay your taxes,” Rawlings-Blake said.

So far, the city has collected more than $900,000 from the beverage tax.

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