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Mayor Calls for Bottle Tax Vote

Council members from North Baltimore play a crucial role in the proposal to raise the bottle tax 3 cents to pay for school construction.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is pressuring members of the City Council’s Taxation and Finance Committee to hold a vote on her proposed increase of the city’s bottle tax.

The mayor issued a news release calling on members of the committee to hold the vote, after were closed because of the heat on Tuesday.

"The needs of our school buildings—which are the oldest in the state—are great," Rawlings-Blake said in the release. "Every year, thousands of children lose school days because of preventable infrastructure issues. I know that many members of the Council are willing and ready to take concrete action to help improve our schools. A small minority of members continue to stall our efforts to improve the schools with more talk and diversions. I am tired of talking—it is time for us to take action."

The mayor, as part of her , has proposed increasing the city’s bottle tax from 2 cents to 5 cents to help leverage bonds to pay for a proposed $300 million in school construction and renovations.

Councilman Carl Stokes, who represents the North Baltimore communities of Charles Village and Remington, is the chair of the committee, and has previously insisted that by not giving the bill a vote he is preventing it from being defeated.

"The committee—I’m keeping the bill alive—the committee doesn’t want it," Stokes said following a Baltimore Education Coalition .

Councilman Bill Henry, whose North Baltimore district runs from the east side of North Charles Street west beyond York Road, also serves on the committee, and has been a vocal opponent of the proposed bottle tax increase.

Henry said the mayor could generate the funds needed for new school construction and repairs, without increasing the bottle tax, by raising the amount of revenue going to schools from a proposed slots casino. 

"If she was willing to do 35 percent of slots revenue that would raise as much money as the bottle tax [increase]," Henry said.

The Mayor has tabbed the majority of the proposed revenue from a city slots casino to go towards reducing property taxes. Earlier this year, the City Council approvedby 20 cents in the next eight years.

Henry said that he would vote to eliminate the current sunset clause on the city’s current bottle tax if Rawlings-Blake would agree to put more casino revenues toward schools.

"We’re just quibbling over percentages," Henry said.   

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