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Campaign For Baltimore Bottle Tax Sparks Debate

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A soda could soon cost you more in Baltimore. The City Council is considering a bill to once again raise the bottle tax to help fund city school construction.

Monique Griego has more from both sides.

The bill would boost the bottle tax to a nickel in the city. It was just introduced Monday night and it’s already getting a fiery response from both sides.

A battle is brewing over bottles.

“We owe our children at least five cents,” said one supporter.

“We’re going to lose sales. We’re going to lose customers,” said an opponent.

The City Council heard a bill to raise the bottle tax from two cents to five cents. The money would help fix crumbling classrooms throughout the city.

“Our kids deserve better and sometimes it takes a tough decision to make sure that we provide a way forward,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The mayor estimates the tax could bring in an extra $10 million a year. Supporters say it’s an investment city schools need desperately.

“There’s rats running around. It’s hot; it’s 90 degrees in some classrooms. It’s not a conducive learning environment,” said Rev. Glenna Huber.

“Frankly, the city has not empowered our children to succeed. It’s actually done the opposite; it’s set them up for failure,” said Arika Gonzales, supports bottle tax.

But many business owners are rallying against the bottle tax, saying it will hurt their bottom line.

“It’s really too much; we’re at the tipping edge,” said one opponent.

They say the two-cent tax already in place has lost jobs and sent customers to the county.

“The two-cent tax really hit us hard. Now they want to go to five cents; it’s going to double the impact,” said Tim Goins.

But with $2.8 billion needed to fix city schools, supporters say they have to start somewhere. Now it’s up to the council to decide.

A hearing will be held for the public to comment on the bottle tax increase. If approved, it would go into effect in July 2013.

Both the mayor and schools CEO will head to Annapolis Tuesday to testify about school construction.

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