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Bottle Tax Debate Heats Up

Baltimore City’s proposal to increase the tax on soda, water, beer and juice to pay for school construction has some business owners concerned that it will eat into their profits.

“Everyone cares about schools, but this is not the way to go about it, which is on the backs of businesses,” says Rob Santoni Jr., chief financial officer of Santoni’s Supermarket.

The city introduced a 2-cent beverage tax last year and is now proposing to increase it to 5 cents. The tax, combined with revenue from slots and the city’s contribution to teachers’ healthcare benefits, would increase the Baltimore City school’s capital budget by $23 million.

“If we want to grow the city with more families and create tomorrow's workforce and new jobs, we can't afford crumbling school buildings,” says Ryan O’Doherty, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

But Santoni, chairman of the Maryland Food Dealers Council, fears more of his customers will shop in the county instead of the city. He estimates that he has lost $500,000 in income due to fewer customer visits since the beverage tax was first introduced.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Rob Santoni Jr., Santoni's Supermarket; Ryan O'Doherty, Baltimore City

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