The council arrived at the 2-cent tariff after months of tense negotiations, while simultaneously — and with much less debate — passing substantial increases to energy, cellphone and income taxes, parking fines and other fees.
Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, who had opposed the 4-cent tax, introduced the amendment to create the 2-cent tax, though she said at the time that she had many reservations.
Since then, beverage industry leaders and store owners have been lobbying council members to repeal the tax.
Ellen Valentino, executive vice president of the Maryland Delaware DC Beverage Association, said her organization continues to strongly oppose any bottle tax.
"The last thing working Baltimoreans need is another tax," said Valentino, who led the push against the tax in 2010. "It is a job-killer, and we're surprised that during this difficult economic time there isn't more of an effort to grow jobs, retain jobs and not put an additional tax burden on Baltimore."
Valentino pointed to the decision by Pepsi to stop bottling beverages at its city plant in January. The Hampden facility continues to distribute drinks.
Rawlings-Blake briefed city schools CEO Andrés Alonso on the plan Thursday morning, and her office was contacting council members and schools advocates to pitch the idea.
Jeff Zellmer, a lobbyist for the Maryland Retailers Association, said increasing the tax would drive more shoppers to purchase groceries in the surrounding counties. He said the 2-cent tax has been particularly deleterious to small, independent markets and that some stores have lost as much as 10 percent of their profits since the tax was approved.
The proceeds from the 2-cent tax were said to be needed for street cleaning and other public works projects. Members of the AFSCME union rallied and posted billboards in support of the tax after Rawlings-Blake said the proceeds would prevent scores of city public works employees from losing their jobs. O'Doherty said the mayor's new plan would not target the tax revenue to schools until July 2013, when the original levy was to expire.
The 2-cent tax generated about $4 million in its first year, less than the $5 million that finance officials had predicted.
The administration might seek the bottle tax increase by asking a council member to propose it as an amendment to a bill currently before the legislative body, O'Doherty said. That bill, ironically, was intended to kill the tax by hastening the sunset date. It was introduced by Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, a bottle tax opponent, who this week lost her bid for re-election. The new council will be sworn in next month.
It is unclear how many council members will support Rawlings-Blake's proposal. Those who oppose it will likely face criticism from administration officials and education advocates.
Rawlings-Blake was the first big city mayor to push through a bottle tax in recent years.
Stokes, whose committee would have to approve the measure, complained that the Rawlings-Blake administration is manipulative in the way in which it presents funding demands.
"It's a trick," he said. "Last year, they said we needed a beverage tax so sanitation workers would not lose their jobs.
"I think we ought to pull back and work on the entire revenue and budget and funding issue in a comprehensive way, rather than handle it piecemeal," Stokes said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie contributed to this article.