The City Council, after lengthy and sometimes bitter debate, last night turned back an attempt to repeal the controversial beverage container tax.
The council voted 12-7 to table both a bill to repeal the tax and an amendment that would have set March 31 as the effective date of the repeal.
In a related action, Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, introduced a bill that would impose a $10 a ton tipping fee on solid waste disposed of at city facilities. The estimated $8 million that would be generated annually by the tipping fee would replace revenues lost by repealing the container tax.
Ambridge made the motion to table the bill that would have repealed the container tax.
Some council members said the container tax should not be repealed until after the 1991 General Assembly ends in April. By then, the city will know how much state money it will receive in the coming fiscal year.
The container tax adds 4 cents to the cost of 16-ounce beverages in glass and cans and 2 cents to the cost of smaller containers. Milk and juice products are exempt.
The city and Baltimore County councils passed identical container levies. But the county tax expired Dec. 31, and the City Council is under renewed pressure from the beverage industry and consumers to repeal the city's tax.
Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd, D-3rd, sponsored the bill that was tabled. The measure called for an end to the tax on Dec. 31, 1991. However, it failed to move out of the Taxation and Finance Committee.
Councilman John A. Schaefer, D-1st, also submitted legislation calling for an end of the tax June 30. And he introduced amendments for both bills that called for an end to the tax on March 31 if the city had collected the $6 million in container tax revenues that the mayor included in the current budget.
Schaefer said his bill was more fiscally responsible than Landers' because it allows flexibility on ending the tax.
Landers bristled at that assessment and vowed to force a vote on his bill.
The council's action was a victory for Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who opposed repeal. He has already included $7 million in revenues from the tax in his proposed fiscal 1992 budget. Losing that money could result in the layoffs of 260 city workers, he warned the council last week.
Schmoke also reminded the council that he had promised State House leaders that the city would not turn its back on any productive revenue sources.