Baltimore City Council May Repeal Beverage Tax

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.

More from Pat Warren
  • Jethro Hooper

    The city should push for the return to deposits on bottles and cans, like many states do; the tax could be levied on those containers that are not returnable. Returnable bottles and cans are a net non-cost for consumer who return them, and help the litter problem because people who need them money will pick up discarded containers and return them. further, it creates jobs by virtue of the handling of the containers. So, it creates jobs, is a non-cost to responsible consumers, helps eliminate litter, and is environmentally responsible. And, those who don’t participate pay the 2 cent tax.

  • State Roundup, October 14, 2011 | Maryland News & Things to Do Blog

    […] Pat Warren asks people how they feel about the bottle tax. WBAL’s Jayne Miller has a report saying that the tax has raised $1 million less than […]

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