If the proposal in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s 10-year-financial plan to tax billboards seems familiar it should be, a North Baltimore lawmaker has previously proposed doing just that twice before.
Councilman Bill Henry, who represents the York Road corridor, previously proposed placing a tax on billboards in 2010 and 2012 but the proposal failed both times despite the city finance department's tacit approval of the legislation.
"It was the lobbying of Clear Channel [who owns most city billboards] of council members that killed it," Henry said.
Henry said that he proposed the tax again last year because it was included as an option in the 2012 version of the online budget game that allows residents to balance the city’s budget by choosing to increase revenue or make spending cuts. He said he took that inclusion as a sign the administration supported the proposal.
"As far as I was concerned the administration already supported [the billboard tax]. They just hadn’t twisted any arms to get it to passed," Henry said.
Last year, he proposed a tax of $5 per square foot for outdoor advertising more than 10 square feet and $15 per square foot for electronic advertising, and said could bring in as much as $1.5 million to the city.
The 10-year financial plan does not include any specific proposals for the billboard tax.
But previously, Henry had used the billboard tax as part of an alternative to a 3 cents bottle tax increase. He said that during council briefings on the 10-year plan the revenue from the tax would go to promote arts and culture, a proposal he supports.