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Bottle tax more about egos, less about money

The tension over Baltimore's bottle tax, passed last night to save city services, shows how politics can veer from substance into petty drama. We're talking about a nearly invisible few cents per drink. But in City Council it became a contest not about revenue but about egos, "winning," "losing" and pride.

Retail interests said the 2-cent tax that passed was better than the 4 cents originally proposed. It's a difference of two pennies. Customers aren't going to notice. They wouldn't have noticed 4 cents. Retail lobbyists can paint the 2-cent deal as a partial "victory." So can Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who backed the 4-cent tax.

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Two miserable pennies. But it created the perception of compromise, which got the deal done. Surely heavy pressure was applied to Helen Holton, who voted against the 4-cent deal last week but reintroduced the bottle tax last night and voted for the 2-cent version. But give her credit for being willing to change her mind. Her ego looks like it took the biggest hit.

UPDATE FRIDAY: Pulled from comments, a good question raised by reader Martin:

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