Proposed bottle and bed taxes protested

Loyola University,, grocer call new city fees burdensome

April 22, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

A proposed tax on hospital and university beds would be "disproportionate" and "unfair" to Loyola University Maryland, which would shoulder more than one-fourth of the $4 million in taxes the measure would generate, a university leader told City Council members at a hearing Thursday.

The university would pay more than $1.1 million if the proposed $350-per-bed annual tax were imposed, Loyola Vice President Terrence M. Sawyer told members of the council's taxation and finance committee.

It is "sad irony" that the university, which has strongly encouraged students to live on campus in recent years at the request of neighborhood groups and city officials, would have to shoulder much of the burden for the city's 16 private hospitals and colleges, Sawyer said.

"The neighborhoods around us have basically mandated that we keep our kids on campus … and we are now being penalized for this gesture," he said.

Sawyer's remarks came during nearly six hours of testimony on the bed tax and a 4-cent bottle tax proposed by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake to help close the city's $121 million deficit.

Rawlings-Blake has proposed to balance the city's budget through $70 million in service cuts and $50 million in new taxes and fees. She has asked the council to speed the passage of the bed tax and the bottle tax, which could bring in as much as $11 million in revenue.

Dozens of bottlers, beverage distributors and store owners spoke in opposition to the bottle tax, arguing that it would drive customers across the city line.

"This $11 million will fall on the backs of families," said Jeff Zellmer, legislative director of the Maryland Retailers Association.

Store owners said they are already struggling because of increased costs for utlities and other expenses.

"If this is passed, I'm toast," said Rob Santoni, owner of a Southeast Baltimore supermarket.

The committee is expected to vote on both bills in the coming weeks. If approved, the measures will then go to the full council for a vote.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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