The Baltimore City Council, in a tug of war that some members said was really about who will eventually receive credit for repealing the city's tax on beverage containers, yesterday voted down a repeal bill offered by Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, D-3rd.
The rejection apparently paves the way for a virtually identical bill offered by Councilman John A. Schaefer, D-1st, which is in the council's Taxation and Finance Committee.
Tax committee Chairman Timothy D. Murphy said he expects to bring the Schaefer tax repeal bill -- which would end the container tax on June 30 -- up for a vote before the full council Monday.
Supporters of the Landers bill -- the council members from the 3rd and 6th districts plus Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., D-1st -- accused their opponents of worrying more about who should get credit for writing the bill than about pressing for its swift adoption.
Several council members, most recently Agnes Welch, D-4th, have said it is ironic that Mr. Landers should be leading the fight for repeal, since it was he who helped persuade the council to adopt the tax in the first place.
"The reality is what we are dealing with is political ownership," said Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd, who accused opponents of the Landers repeal bill of "gamesmanship."
But opponents said they would withhold their support for an end to the container tax -- which raises about $6 million annually -- until they are certain an alternative revenue source will be approved.
A hearing on a bill that would increase the fee charged to private waste haulers for the use of city trash disposal facilities by $10 per ton is scheduled before the council's Policy and Planning Committee at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Although opposition to the so-called bottle tax is widespread in the council, who should be given credit for its repeal has been a hotly contested issue since Nov. 5, when Mr. Landers introduced a bill that would have ended the tax at the end of 1990.
Mr. Schaefer countered that day with a bill that would allow the tax to remain in effect until June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Although some council members signed on to both bills, concerns that an end to the tax half way through the fiscal year would put a hole in the city budget persuaded more council members to go along with the Schaefer bill.
"It's simply a matter of common sense that you don't carve out money until there is money to replace it," said Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th. Opponents of the bottle tax say it is an unfair burden on beverage merchants in the city, because it adds 4 cents to the cost of every 16-ounce or larger can of soda or beer and 2 cents to beverages sold in smaller containers.
Baltimore County repealed an identical tax on Dec. 31, which opponents to the city tax say encourages shoppers from the city to do their business in the county.