Schmoke vetoes measure to repeal container tax Veto leaves fate of the levy up to members of the City Council.

May 31, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

It will be up to the City Council to determine the fate of the beverage container tax now that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has vetoed a bill that would have repealed the levy.

After receiving the repeal bill, which the council approved last month by a 13-6 vote, the mayor had five regularly scheduled council meetings to take action on the measure or it automatically would have become law. That deadline would have passed this coming Monday.

In vetoing the measure yesterday, Schmoke suggested that the council keep the tax but at half its current rate, which is 4 cents on containers larger than 16 ounces and 2 cents on containers 16 ounces and smaller.

Schmoke included $6.9 million in revenue from the tax at its current rate in his proposed $2.05 billion budget for fiscal 1992.

To make up the difference between the $6.9 million and what half the container tax rate would bring in -- $3.45 million -- Schmoke also recommended that the council approve a $5 surcharge on top of tipping fees paid by commercial trash haulers at the city's landfill and incinerators and a 5 percent solid waste collection fee on businesses.

The two solid-waste revenue measures would generate an estimated $4.25 million annually in new


The council has been looking at legislation that would attach a fee or tax to commercial solid waste, both to raise revenue and encourage commercial recycling.

"The council will evaluate the mayor's recommendations," said Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

As part of that evaluation, DiBlasi said, the council wants to look at reducing by 5 cents the city's property tax rate of $5.95 for each $100 of assessed value as well as enhancing some city services, such as adding more police officers.

DiBlasi said he doubts there are 15 votes in the council to override the mayor's veto.

"But the veto of the container tax repeal bill leaves the council with a number of options," DiBlasi said.

Those options include:

* Keeping the container tax for one more fiscal year at its current rate and passing solid waste fees.

* Keeping the container tax at half its rate and enacting the solid waste fees.

* Passing some combination of a container tax, solid waste fee and cuts in the budget.

* Coming up with enough other solid waste/recycling measures that would totally offset the $6.9 million needed from the container tax.

The council is to start its deliberations on the budget Tuesday.

Whatever the council decides to do, Schmoke said he was prepared to work closely with the members.

The mayor's veto of the container tax-repeal bill drew the support of the council's black coalition.

Councilwoman Iris G. Reeves, D-5th, who heads the coalition, said the group also endorses the mayor's recommendation to keep the tax at half its rate and impose the solid waste fees.

But not all members were pleased with the mayor's action.

Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, who has consistently opposed the container tax, said he was "disappointed but not surprised by the mayor's veto."

"The mayor has made it clear he's become addicted to this source of revenue," Murphy said.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke said she did not like the veto and would oppose continued reliance on the container tax, which she said places an unfair burden on one industry.

A beverage industry spokesman reacted strongly to the veto.

"It sends a strong message that the mayor doesn't care about the citizens who can't afford to go into other nearby counties to buy their beer and sodas, and it shows he doesn't care about the retail store owners," said W. Edward Gregory, manager of government affairs for the Chesapeake region of Pepsi Cola East.

Schmoke said, "I know this veto won't please everybody, but I did what I thought was best . . ."

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