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Baltimore City Council Committee Hears Arguments For & Against A Bottle Tax Hike

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The battle is brewing over a proposed increase in the bottle tax in Baltimore City. Both sides sounded off in front of the City Council Wednesday night.

Andrea Fujii has more from that contentious meeting.

The mayor is pushing a City Council committee to vote on a three cent increase in the beverage tax — pushing it to five cents — but that vote did not come Wednesday night.

There’s a fiery debate about the bottle tax.

“The nickels, they’re all going to add up,” said one.

A proposal would increase the city’s bottle tax from two cents to five cents. The money would go to school construction.

“For 15 years, I’ve been in school buildings that are unhealthy, not safe,” said student Brianna Wells.

“I think some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen in a school. We have cracked floors, we have doors off the hinges,” said teacher Terrell Williams.

The beverage industry says the city needs to find another way to pay. Business owners say the current two cent tax is already hurting their bottom line. At Santoni’s Supermarket, 30,000 fewer cases of Coke and Pepsi products were sold in 2011 and sales plummeted more than $430,000.

“When I’m putting nine less paychecks on the street than I did in 2009 because of this beverage tax, that’s nine less citizens getting paychecks,” Santoni said.

City Council members are still divided on the issue.

“I’m favorably inclined to vote for this. I want to make sure that the money that comes in would go right to the cause,” said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

“It’s a process. I think some things need to fall in place before we make a decision on this particular bill,” said Councilman Carl Stokes.

The mayor tells the council it’s time for a decision.

“The legislation has sat in committee long enough. It’s time to get moving and do something for our kids,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

But after Wednesday night’s meeting, that bill is still in committee and committee chair Carl Stokes says he does not expect a vote for at least a week or two.

Some council members say they are waiting to see what happens with the state budget in Annapolis before they make a decision about the bottle tax.

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