Container tax proposal assailed by store owner

April 23, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

A liquor store owner who spearheaded the fight to repeal the container tax reacted angrily yesterday after City Councilwoman Sheila Dixon introduced a bill that would reinstitute the levy that the council voted to phase out last year.

"We got double-crossed," said John Rothenhoefer, who led the fight in June to phase out the tax by 1997. "I don't think that this is very ethical," said Mr. Rothenhoefer, who owns Three Brothers Discount Liquors on Frederick Avenue.

Under Mrs. Dixon's proposed measure, which would take effect in 1997, a levy of 2 cents would be added to beverage containers of 16 ounces or less and a 4-cent levy on larger sizes. Grocery owners and representatives from PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. have said that the tax, the only one of its kind in the state, drives customers to the suburbs to buy soda.

Councilwoman Dixon, who represents the 4th District, scoffs at that logic.

"People do not make a special trip from the city to the county to buy a bottle of soda," Mrs. Dixon said. "Let's be realistic."

Council members Paula Johnson Branch and Robert L. Douglass, both of the 2nd District, added their support to Mrs. Dixon's bill, saying that the council could not afford to close the door on prospects for generating more revenue.

The container tax netted the city about $6.1 million yearly.

Yesterday's action comes in the wake of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's announcement last week that he wants to increase the piggyback income tax by 10 percent to avoid deep cuts in the budgets of Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Museum of Art and the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Mr. Schmoke said that the piggyback tax increase would generate about $4.9 million in six months.

Council members have been scrambling to come up with alternative sources of revenue as constituents demand they reject the proposed piggyback tax increase.

That proposal would require residents to pay the city an amount calculated as a percentage of the state income tax of 55 percent instead of 50 percent.

The council and the mayor are on a two-month schedule to hammer out a balanced budget.

First District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo said during yesterday's council meeting that the proposals from Mrs. Dixon and the mayor are unfair to city residents. Instead he wants to add $1 to every Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens ticket.

Mr. D'Adamo calculates his surcharge would net the city about $3.6 million from the Orioles. He arrived at that sum by estimating 44,000 tickets sold for each of 80 home games.

"This way we are not hitting everybody who lives in Baltimore," Mr. D'Adamo said.

A private meeting between the council and the mayor is scheduled this afternoon on the city's $2.3 billion budget.

Pub Date: 4/23/96

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