Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Buying a soft drink or bottle of water in Baltimore could get more expensive. WJZ has learned the bottle tax is moving forward despite concerns it was stalled in a council committee.
Derek Valcourt has new information from key city leaders.
People buying soda in Baltimore City already pay a two-cent tax per bottle, and it’s looking likely that the rate would more than double.
The heated debate over adding five cents to the bottle tax to pay for school construction has raged for months.
“We owe our children at least five cents,” said one Baltimore resident in support of the bottle tax hike.
“The nickels are all going to add up,” said another person.
The bottle tax plan pushed by the mayor would raise $10 million in revenue and allow the city to leverage another $300 million in bonds to renovate old dilapidated schools and build new ones.
But for months, the bill has been sitting in the Budget and Taxation Committee where it does not have majority support. And that doesn’t sit well with some council members.
“Monday, I’ll make a motion to move the bill out of committee,” councilman Ed Reisinger said.
Reisinger says he plans to call for a rarely used petition to force the bill out of committee to the full City Council where it has the support to pass.
“Two-thirds of the council want to vote for this. And it is democracy to give my colleagues the option to vote. It’s a city-wide issue. And that’s why we’re doing this,” Reisinger said.
“But it breaks protocol,” said Councilman Carl Stokes.
Stokes opposes the bottle tax. He insists bypassing his committee isn’t necessary because a vote on the bottle tax is coming.
“It’s going to happen this week, whether it’s tomorrow or the next couple of days,” he said.
But bottle tax supporters argue it may be time to force a vote on the issue, saying children in deplorable schools can’t keep waiting.
“I will not kick the can down the road any further and ignore the state of our schools and not try to do something,” councilman Brandon Scott said.
If the bottle tax bill is brought to the full floor for all of the City Council to vote on, it is expected to pass. And if it does pass, the mayor could sign the bottle tax bill by the end of the month.
Critics of the bottle tax call it bad for business and will drive shoppers into the county as they look for lower prices.