$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.