Reporting Pat Warren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The Baltimore City Council is considering something you don’t often hear about these days– repealing a tax. The 2-cent beverage tax imposed 14 months ago is under review.
Political reporter Pat Warren has more on what’s taking place.
The protest is coming from the beverage industry, which claims to be losing more in jobs and business than the city is gaining with the tax.
There’s a lot to be said for customer loyalty.
“I’ve been coming to Santoni’s since it was in a rowhome where they had the store in their living room and dining room,” said Marlene Donahue, a customer at Santoni’s.
But Donahue isn’t the typical customer. According to Santoni’s and other retailers in the city, customers have been deserting them since the city imposed a two-cent beverage tax.
“Our store is approaching half a million dollars in lost sales, but that number is much larger as the whole industry goes,” Rob Santoni, owner of Santoni’s, said.
For some individuals, 2 cents more per container isn’t a lot.
“Not at all, not when gas has gone up 50 cents,” said one.
“Well, I didn’t like it. I really didn’t, but our streets need a lot of fixing. So what are you gonna do? Ride over them with your car and bust your wheels up, or pay 2-cents a bottle?” Donahue said.
For distributors and retailers, the better question is, how do you stop consumers from riding over to the counties and doing business there?
“Who wants to do business here?” distributor John Dow said. “Let’s go to the county where things are easier and we don’t have this tax. It’s an unfair burden.”
But Council Vice President Ed Resinger says he’s hearing a different story from others about why local business are losing money.
“It’s the economy,” Resinger said. “People are laid off, they don’t have jobs, they cut back their hours.”
Repealing the tax a year early would mean about $5 million less in the budget, which the city says it cannot afford. But the beverage industry disagrees with the actual benefit to the city.
“It’s like the city is paying a dollar to chase a dime,” said one.
The bill under consideration would repeal the tax in June of next year.
There’s a 2013 sunset on the beverage tax, meaning it would automatically expire then if no action is taken to extend it.