« Waiting for Pipkin, 2010 edition | Main | Obama visit cancelled »

January 12, 2010

$2.10 for a Miller Lite?

With Gov. Martin O’Malley about a week away from unveiling $2 billion of cuts to the state budget, public health advocates are fretting that their programs will be among the snips. This morning, they rallied behind a new source of funding: A ten cent per drink hike to the alcohol tax.

Del. Bill Bronrott and Sen. Rich Madaleno will introduce the bill and they estimate it will net $200 million for the state. The money would pay for programs to treat and prevent substance abuse and fill other funding gaps in health-related services. A coalition of health advocates supporting the tax predict what they call an extra benefit: More expensive booze will reduce drinking.

A similar bill advocating a five cent increase didn’t go anywhere last year and supporters acknowledged they’ve got an uphill battle. “You’ve been hearing there is no way an alcohol tax can pass,” said Vincent DeMarco, the President of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative at this morning’s news conference. But he compared the effort with a previous successful campaign to increase the tax on cigarettes. “Just as the tobacco industry fell, the alcohol industry will fall,” he predicted.

Industry reps are not so sure. They say the tax will siphon off jobs as fewer people drink. But, nobody’s called us back to talk on the record yet, so we’ll update this when they do/ Jack Milani, legislative co-chair of Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, says bars and restaurants are already hurting. “It would be another blow,” he said. Also, he predicted the tax would caused Marylanders who live on the DC board would travel to the nation’s capital to buy their beer.

The bill would essentially add a ten cent tax per eight ounces of alcohol – that would add 60 cents to a six pack of beer, and about 55 cents to a bottle of wine, said Bronrott. Currently consumers pay about a penny in taxes per drink, advocates for the change said. The beer and wine tax rate hasn't been touched since 1972. And spirits haven't had a tax increase since 1955.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:53 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: General Assembly 2010


Now I know I learned my math in the Baltimore City Schools; however, last I checked a six-pack of bear contained six 12 ounce cans for a total of 72 ounces. 72 divided by 8 times 10 gives $0.90 per six pack.

(From Annie: Oh! Good point. I must just be a consumer of the litest of lite beers. I will ask.)

These sorts of measures are reasonable but should be done as a SURCHARGE and NOT as a tax rate change.

I would support such measures if THEY (iow not just on booze) include a sundown clause of some sort tied to to a specific time limit and/or when an objective economic condition is met. At that point the SURCHARGE can be eliminated.

"No New Taxes"

Shouldn't the title of this article be "$2.20 for a miller lite"? If a miller lite is $2 and there is a 10% tax, then the new price would be $2.20.

(From Annie: Interesting. However, the claim is that the tax would be "a dime a drink"... not a 10 percent tax.)

First, I just wish DeMarco would find a job that does not entail working for a group that DOES NOT TAKE SOMETHING FROM SOMEONE AND GIVE IT TO ANOTHER!
He needs to find a real job that does not rely on OPM!!

Second, the BIG problem with using sin taxes to fund popular programs is this. The funding stream tends to rely more on the sin taxes than the regular funding as time goes on. Then as the tax slowly dries up the program then must turn to the bleeding hearts of the legislooters to fund it from the general fund. These programs are NEVER cut when the sin tax dries up. This is well known to the like of DeMarco and his ilk.
But they don't care. After all, it is someone else's money.

Thank God DeMarco FAILED in his last job trying to deny us our civil rights.

Unlike most States Maryland charges a addmission tax, entertainment tax, sales tax. When does this all stop, I lot of bars and clubs are closing the doors because of people cannot afford to go out. You Idiots need to stop hurting the small business owners, I am so glad you politicians have nothing better to do then put more of us out of business. I sure glad that your pay check, medical, and pension and raises for three months worth of work is taken care of by us taxpayers. You morons everyday are creating a socialized Government. This all needs to Stop. Just another way to form another Government run agency to stop us from drinking. Maybe next year you can tell us what we can and cannot eat. Now I see why the Tea Party is growing larger everyday, so we can vote you morons out of office.

Annie: If the tax is 10 cents per 8 ounces of alcohol it would be a 90 cent increase to the cost of a six pack of beer, assuming we are talking about a standard 12 oz beer. 6X12=72 72/8=9. I think it is probably based off of standard accepted drinks (12 0z for beer, 4.5 oz for wine, 1.5 oz for spirits if they are included.)

The tax has been estimated at ten cents a drink. A drink is generally defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Based on these numbers, the new rate would total 60 cents on a six-pack of beer, approximately 59 cents on a bottle of wine, and $2.25 on a one-liter bottle of distilled spirits.

Legislators need to stop nickel and "diming" us to death.

Take a look at England and Scotland. They already have abhorrently high rates of tax on alcohol and it has not reduced their drinking problems. I think alcohol - even more than cigarettes - is not price sensitive tp the user.

Needing more funding for health care? Ummmmmm burned through the tobacco suits windfall already huh? Substance abuse prevention huh? Guess, should have spent it more wisely. But as usual, they went through it like it was water.Maybe the real substance abuse prevention needed is to not be spending other peoples money.

Who do they propose to be responsible for collecting these taxes? How are they going to measure a "drink?" Is this at a retailer level or at a wholesaler level?

If the former, how will you define/collect taxes for a "drink?" Sounds like a huge clusterf*** to me...

If the latter, is this a proposal to increase excise taxes? If so, and the calculations of 10 cents a 12 oz beer can (i.e. roughly $1.07 per gallon), this means they are proposing a nearly 1200% increase per gallon! I have not done the math for the wine or liquor, but it seems like beer drinkers get hit the hardest.
How is this fair?

I have felt for years that excise taxes are patently unfair in that they target a select group of people. This is a regressive tax. And this is a lefty speaking!

You children be good and drink your vegetables. And wear your seat belt. And don't speed. And don't smoke. And don't eat trans fats. And wear your helmets.

Lottery = payments for health care.
Slots = payments for what ever the lottery lie was paying for.
The mafia could run it better and if not better I still probably wouldn't see as much of this crap in the paper.

Not that the reporting is crap, just that the crap it's reporting is crap

Is the tax per ounce of alcohol or ounce of fluid? That makes a difference. There is about one ounce of alcohol per twelve ounce beer.

The tax is per ounce of fluid (actually, per gallon). This is the way the tax is currently levied. The proposed excise tax increase builds on the existing structure in place to collect these taxes and should not add any additional expenses in terms of revenue collection.

Oh yeah good! Make the people who can and do drink responsibly pay more in order to support the ones that can't!

As the 4th highest taxed state in the nation
-thank you Annapolis-
when does the nickeling and diming of the citizens of Maryland stop?
When is enough enough?
I say no new taxes period.
Manage your house better Annapolis.
You already take more from my paycheck than Social security.

A thoughtful insight and ideas I will use on my blog. You've obviously spent some time on this. Well done!

The real problem is, like many taxes in Maryland, its volume based rather than indexed for price. If you buy a gallon of Dom P or a gallon of Natty Boh, you're paying the same tax, even though one is $100 more expensive (at least, I haven't bought the former in a long time). Just like gas, if it costs $2.99 or .99, you pay the same tax. We need to move to an indexing strategy for taxation.

This is the type of tax that I've always found to be extremely two-faced and counterproductive. It'd be nice to have someone explain to all of us how a tax is, on the one hand, going to increase revenue while at the same time decrease the amount of alcohol being bought. As far as I can tell both problems cannot be solved.
Oh, and please don't attempt to legislate my actions.

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

Richard Bach~ In order to live free and happily you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):


Headlines from The Baltimore Sun
About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Breaking News newsletter
When a big news event breaks, we'll e-mail you the basics with links to up-to-date details.
Sign up

Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected