Bottle tax comes up short; city to cut services
The City Council failed Thursday to approve a controversial new tax on bottled beverages, leaving the city to cut services to close a budget gap, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper reports.
The 15-member council split 7-7 on the measure backed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake but opposed by a coalition of beverage of distributors and store owners. Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, whose cousin is a lobbyist for a beverage distributor, recused himself.
Supporters of the new tariff had lobbied furiously this week to win the support of two remaining swing voters to achieve an 8-6 majority. Council member Warren Branch, who had said Wednesday that he was undecided, voted against it Thursday.
“My constituents told me overwhelmingly to vote no,” he said.
Councilman Carl Stokes, the other undecided member, voted for it Thursday.
Rawlings-Blake and the council have been negotiating the mix of budget cuts and new taxes to close a $121 million shortfall in the city’s budget, the largest deficit in memory.
Officials had estimated that the bottle tax would generate $11 million in revenue. But some council members disagreed with Rawlings-Blake’s plans for the revenue. Distributors and retailers, meanwhile, aired radio advertisements opposing the tax.