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City Officials Pass Bottle Tax Increase

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A five-cent tax on every bottle of soda will soon be the law of the land in Baltimore. The so-called bottle tax bill is on its way to the mayor for her signature.

Derek Valcourt has more on the bill and what it all means to the city and its residents.

With little fanfare and majority support, City Council members voted to increase the bottle tax. The jump is more than double, from two cents to five cents, and takes effect in July 2013. That money would go to help aging and dilapidated city schools desperately in need of repairs. The estimated $10 million in tax revenue would help the city leverage $300 million in bonds.

It’s a major victory for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who pushed the plan.

“The bottle tax and the package that we put together is a great step forward in making sure the conditions of our school match the quality of the kids that go there,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Bottle tax opponents call the passage of this bill reckless. They say adding three cents worth of taxes to each container is nothing but a money grab that would cost jobs and hurt local grocery stores.

“Customers that we have, they read and they have cars, they have transportation so they will go to the county where their dollar will take them further,” said Sandy Vary, Bi-Rite Supermarket.

Supermarket owners like Rob Santoni says he now has eight fewer employees because of the two-cent bottle tax already in place.

“A drop in sales translates to a loss of jobs in our industry,” Santoni said.

Shoppers appear split on the controversy.

“Taxes help pay for services and if we want services, we have to pay for them,” said Tracee Ford.

“Maybe the schools are in bad shape but I don’t think we should be the ones that should have our drinks raised just to pay for it,” said Bonnie Hall.

No date has yet been set for the mayor to formally sign the bottle tax bill.

The bottle tax would not apply to milk, juice or two-liter containers.

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