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Mayor Rawlings-Blake Wants Bottle Tax Increase Proposal Passed Immediately

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The mayor's proposal to increase the bottle tax to pay for school construction had tempers flaring at the City Council Monday night.

Andrea Fujii has more on both sides of the issue.

While business owners feel they're being targeted by the city, there are a lot of people who want that money to go to the schools.

First they took to the streets, armed with cash and a voice. Then Monday night, BUILD came carrying nickels as they tried to convince the City Council to raise the bottle tax. But, with the slam of a gavel, they were turned away.

"We're saying our children are worth five cents," said Terrell Williams.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants to increase the bottle tax from two to five cents to help pay for school improvements.

"Now is the time to make tough choices to support our students," Rawlings-Blake said.

It's pictures that motivate BUILD, a community action group.

"The ceiling has falling tiles. There are holes in the ceiling. The floors are cracking under our feet," Williams said.

But for business owners like Rob Santoni, the issue isn't whether schools need help, it's who should pay for it.

"I don't see where the backs of businesses should bear the burden," Santoni said.

Santoni's been fighting the tax since it was first introduced in 2010. He believes an increase could be crushing.

"Loss of sales to surrounding counties, loss of revenue and, most importantly, loss of jobs," he said.

BUILD, however, doesn't buy it.

"Have the business owners go into our schools," Williams said. "Guarantee you none of their businesses look like our buildings in our schools."

The mayor is expected to formally introduce the bottle tax bill at an upcoming City Council meeting.

The mayor's goal is to raise an extra $23 million a year for the school budget.

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