"My company couldn't exist without this credit," he said.

Councilman William Cole, of Federal Hill, questioned if the city should "continue to be so generous" with the scope of the program, though he voted to continue it. The city has grappled with budget deficits in recent years, and is projecting a $20 million shortfall next fiscal year.

But Councilman James Kraft, of Fells Point, said the program has made "a tremendous difference in the character of our city and it has made it such a unique place in many ways."

In other business, Cole introduced a bill for a partial ban of cigarette-smoking in city parks. His proposal would ban smoking within 50 feet of a playground or athletic field.

"Parents want their kids to be able to go in there and not have to deal with the cigarette smoke," Cole said.

Baltimore currently permits smoking anywhere within city parks.

Several Baltimore County Council members last week said they're planning to introduce legislation to ban smoking at all county parks. Smoking is banned at Howard County parks, and restricted in Anne Arundel.

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater