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Mayor pushes bottle tax increase for school construction

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has pledged to seek a three-cent increase in the bottle tax this year as a way to help raise $300 million to help fund school construction and renovations. In her first State of the City address since she was elected to a full term last fall, Rawlings-Blake challenged the City Council to pass legislation raising the bottle tax from two cents to a nickel next year “to be real” about helping to fix many of the city’s decaying schools. Other proposed revenue streams include revenues from slots parlors.  Both would be used to help secure $300 million in bond sales for the construction. “State budget experts have warned that these financing proposals need more vetting — and so, together we must exercise due diligence,” a draft of Rawlings-Blake's speech given Monday afternoon at City Hall said. “The special interests and lobbyists will tell you there’s another way, but they won’t tell you how — they can’t. We need to be real. This is a big problem that requires shared sacrifice. It can’t be fixed with accounting gimmicks. It’s a new tax and its one we need to pass now to invest in our kids and our future.” The mayor pushed the first bottle tax two years ago amid a bruising fight with the council and city businesses. In her speech, she also highlighted her plan, unveiled late last year, to increase the city’s population by 10,000 over the next 10 years. She said the city is creating community job hubs in “areas with high unemployment and poverty, fully funding our one-stop career centers and adding year-round job opportunities for young people” and pledged to continue full funding of the Neighborhood Main Streets program as a way to help support small businesses.

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