Baltimore residents planning picnics, barbeques, and parties for July 4th celebrations should prepare to cough up a little extra for future festivities. Despite the fact that a whopping 34.77 percent of the costs associated with July 4th already go to cover government fees and taxes, the Baltimore City Council has voted to make commemorating Independence Day even more costly for hardworking Baltimore taxpayers. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Council approved a measure last week that imposes a three point, 150 percent bottle tax increase. This five cent per container tax comes on top of the income tax increase that Maryland Governor O’Malley signed into law this May, as well as the many other taxes that make Maryland residents’ tax burden 12th highest in the nation.
As a result of the bottle tax hike, Baltimore residents and visitors will now pay more for soft drinks, alcohol, water, and juice. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the City Council forced this unnecessary tax hike through despite protests from vital area employers such as Safeway and Coca-Cola, who contended that the tax will endanger area jobs. It should be noted that the original two-cent bottle tax was passed in 2010 under the pretense that it would be temporary, yet adding insult to injury, this sunset provision was also scratched last week, making this unnecessary and annoying tax permanent.
Baltimore’s onerous tax burden has already resulted in out-migration from Charm City. According to 2010 census data, the city is losing an average of 100 people per month as citizens flee to areas with a more hospitable tax climate. Baltimore’s property tax rates are the highest in Maryland, a state notorious for burdening its people with the cost of its bloated government, a burden evidenced by the income tax increase the legislature passed in May.
With this latest round of job-killing tax increases at the state and local level, consumers and residents are more inclined to flock to counties and even states where the government does not reach so deep into their recession-lightened wallets. With the exception of Pennsylvania, Maryland’s neighbors – Delaware, Washington, DC, and Virginia, all place less of a tax burden on their citizens, giving consumers and employers ample opportunity and incentive to live and do business elsewhere. This incentive to flee Baltimore will only be bolstered by Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s ill-conceived bottle tax hike.
Proponents of the bottle tax claim that it will help finance the Mayor’s plan to revitalize Baltimore City schools. Yet even if the tax raises the $10 million it is projected to (doubtful considering the original tax fell $1 million short of revenue projections), such a figure barely skims the surface of the exorbitant $2.8 billion dollars that reports estimate is needed for the Mayor’s school revitalization plan. Just like the numerous ObamaCare tax hikes, and Gov. O’Malley’s recent income tax hike, the Baltimore bottle tax is short-sighted and economically adverse money grab from big-government officials. Allowing the tax to stand will only reduce the job-creating capacity of small businesses and hamper crucial efforts to revitalize the City of Baltimore.