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January 12, 2011

Miller says increase to alcohol tax is 'nonsense'

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller this morning had sobering words for those advocating a *dime-a-drink* hike on beer, wine and liquor taxes: The proposal is "nonsense," he said.

"It is not going to happen," said Miller, who has instead pushed for a hike in the state's gas tax.

Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Gov. Martin O'Malley participated this morning in an annual legislative issue forum hosted by radio host Marc Steiner.

The conversations were largely dominated by talk of budget cuts.

Busch said that state workers will likely face another year of furloughs. O'Malley again reiterated that he is "open" to tax increases (though he is not proposing any this year). He said he wants any new taxes to be evaluated by how they would affect Maryland's competitiveness with neighboring states.

The forum occurred up hours before the 2011 General Assembly is set to open for the 90 day session. Though the capital is coated in white after a night of snowfall, the weather seems to have had little impact on lobbyists and lawmakers: The halls are abuzz after months of silence.

The House and Senate will both convene at noon to take up largely ceremonial measures.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:15 AM | | Comments (69)
Categories: 2011 legislative session


So an increase in the alcohol tax is nonsense, but increasing the price of gas as it reaches record highs so that it can be raided at will to protect pet projects is a great idea.

If I ever had any doubt that Miller was squarely in the pocket of the liquor distributors, it's gone now.

I'm in full agreement.

Gas is a necessity. People have to fuel their cars to get to work and school each day. Alcohol is not a necessity. It is a luxury. Gas is already taxed out the wazoo and prices are already high enough. The General Assembly needs to pass a tax increase on alcohol and not gas. Enough is enough already.

Of course it's non-sense, it only affects those who drink....and that number is far smaller than the number of those who drive. Great job working the numbers Mike!

Drivers are already paying $3 per gallon and you want another gas tax? Will be more than glad to vote you out of office. There are more people purchasing alchol than gas so why not tax the item that will generate the most funds in this dire economy doesn't that make sense? Oh I forgot we are talking about highly educated elected officials making decisions. My Bad

well, the geniuses of Calvert and PG county keep voting him in.

Who are the morons in District 27 who keep electing this jerk?

State employees getting screwed for a fourth year. Thanks, Gov! I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to make ends meet with the furlough days I already have.

Guys the point here is we need to find *new* ways to tax people, gas and alcohol are old hat! I propose a WiFi tax - clearly the use of WiFi is a luxury, wouldn't you pay an extra dime per week to play Angry Birds on your iPads?? I know I would!!!

If they increase gas taxes it should be illegal to use it for anything but roads. I'm sick of paying all these taxes and my county getting no road improvements even though there has been tremendous growth and congestion. All the money spent on mass transit does nothing for those of us who live and work in more rural areas. We don't need or use it !

Maybe Miller's thinking that to cut down on drunk driving deaths, rather than charging more for booze, just make gas so expensive that no one can afford to drive anymore.


I fully agree as well. Maryland hasn't raised it's beer and wine tax since 1972 and the liquor tax since 1955. Maryland also brings in significantly less revenue than neighboring states.

If I recall correctly, Miller's family owes a liquor store in Prince Georges County.

Shouldn't he remove himself ethically from any liquor tax discussions?

Miller during Glendenning reign was in the back pocket of the power companies that brought us the delayed 72% increase and now he's in the back pocket of the liquor distributors. I wonder how much money they all donated towards his re-election bid.

I have for the past few years urged my representatives to increase the alcohol tax. They have increased the gasoline tax, cigarette tax, sales tax, home assessment values which increases real estate taxes, increased fees for driver's licenses, vehicle tags, and on and on. Why is alcohol a sacred cow? One of my representatives -- Sonny Minnick told me that he is a bar owner and raising alcohol tax would hurt his business.

There's your answer in a nutshell. Once again, let's hurt the most people to save the few.


Senator Miller is right, but I wish he didn't simply say a booze tax isn't going to happen, presumably because of the liquor business' influence. There is a good reason for not raising alcohol: states are too fond of narrower sin taxes. Makes them feel good? But given the emergencies states now face, the broader the tax, the better, As many as possible should bear the burden. The income tax should be off limits because that will indeed cause clever accountants and CEO's to ditich MD, though the massive fed employment in MD wouldn't be affected. The gas tax really does affect everyone: not only drivers and their families, but also everyone who eats or use products that are transported in the state. But the gas tax should be considered as a user fee. I would assume MD has enough needed, not pork barrel, repair and infrastructure jobs to fund with added funds. If however, the increase in gas tax is used for education, medicaid, illegal immigrant job training or pension costs, forget it. We overspend in those areas: too many bucks for too little return. The school consultants and administrators, the professional illegal immig advocates and the prosperous doctors and hospital administrators who are about the only ones able to buy a $1million+ house these days can take spending cuts.

Slash spending across the board; renegotiate pensions under threat of bankruptcy, and gas tax hike if and only if used for transportation projects(jobs and materials, not O'Malley's bureaucracy in state dept of transportation or county mass transit agencies.

I'll drink to that....

Seeing that there is such a deficit that even education may not be spared cuts, I would suggest an increase in both the gas and alcohol tax may be necessary. Yes, they are painful to all of us, especially those who already pay city property taxes. But it may be unavoidable if we want to continue receiving the services that we need and continue funding education which is so very important.

I don't agree with a gas tax increase, but I am am fine with an alcohol tax increase, but only if they do it the right way and let me buy alcohol every day of the week in MD, as well as let me purchase beer and wine in grocery stores, and over mail. If we are going to try to increase revenue by this tax increase then let's go all of the way and expand access to alcohol purchasing.

The nonsense is how Miller Busch and the King of Fools MOM are driving this state into bankruptcy.
How much more does the overtaxed taxpayers have to shell out because of the fiscal incompetence of these three idiots?
Gas is already over 3 dollars a gallon-once again we Marylanders have to foot the bill for these fiscal morons.
Hey Miller how much money are you receiving from the liquor industry?


Do Marylanders really not know that the Governor and General Assembly have REPEATEDLY raided the Maryland Transportation Fund over the past several years?????

This fund IS funded by users - and is mandated by law to be used only for transportation purposes - except in times of extreme emergencies.

Trouble is.... all the Gov's and General Assembly's budget-busting programs makes everything an "extreme emergency" in their minds.


Raise the gas tax. It has not been raised in over a decade. Americans need an incentive to get off our addiction to Arab and foreign oil.

Avoid the gas tax by not living in the suburban fringe or live in the suburban fringe and pay the gas tax because you are using the roads a lot.

America is building a mighty Saudi Arabian kingdom.

It is raining American oil money in Saudi Arabia

This guy is truly despicable in both his words and actions. remember he voted down slots when Ehrlich was in office just because.....partisan politics.

He's quick to do things "just because" and play the party game. F'n hate this state and would move if didn't have roots. I hope...HOPE Miller gets busted for a DUI because you KNOW he drinks. just look at him, he's a fat drunk w/ a real big obnoxious mouth.

The real propblem with the gas tax is that is needs to be indexed rather than a fixed amount per gallon. When the price of gas goes up, tax collection is lowered, mass transit use goes up, but the revenue to run it is lessened. Further, the reduced revenue means less money for roadwork, which caused drivers to use even more gas. A gas tax as a percentage of the sale price ensures that money is available in peak times to put back into the transportation budget. Also, the gas tax is exclusively for the transportation budget, so I don't see how an increase will help the general fund.
On the other hand, the liquor tax is the last tax that hasn't seen adjustment in decades. The liquor is also not indexed, and it is also a per-gallon tax that we never adjusted for inflation. Indexing the liquor tax would be the just way to close the budget gap here.

I think it's about time. For years they have raised taxes on cig, taxing only smokers

this is what you get Maryland for voting the same stupid ass democrats into office. WAY TO GO Maryland

PS this is also on those stupid ass democrats agenda, to raise gas prices so everyone drives a freaking hybrid, hey why not make a hybrid that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to buy and than maybe people would buy them, until then, stay off my gas prices, ass wholes! remember: American and Republican and in I CAN while Democrats end in RATS!!!

Of course he is against raising the tax on alcohol, that would affect his pocket. Raising the gas tax does not affect his pocket because WE pay for his gas.

The Maryland gas tax has been 23.5 cents a gallon since 1992. That would be the equivalent of 36 cents in 2010 dollars accounting for inflation.

In terms of percentage, 23.5 cents would have been about
20 percent of the average price of gas in 1992. Twenty percent of the current price of gas ($3.00) would be 60 cents.

I think it would be reasonable to increase the gas tax to 36 cents a gallon, and index it to the inflation rate using the CPI.

Since the gas tax revenue all goes into a trust fund for transportation needs, it is reasonable. As long as the funds are always used only for transportation projects, I think that's fair. We do need to pay for the upkeep of the roads and bridges and improvements to public transportation, don't we?

Miller is nonsense. I don't like any tax increase at this time but to rule out the alcohol tax but agree to raise the gas tax is hypocrisy. People actually make a decision to drink. All can live without so an increase in cost affects only those that want to partake. People need gas to fill their cars and thus go to work to pay Maryland taxes. There is little choice. Also the transportaion fund would be in good shape if politicians like Miller did not raid it every year to balance the general budget. Keep the gas tax for transportation projects. Miller's credability is non-existant.

The payoffs to Miller are obvious. This is purely a politician in the pocket of liquor lobbyists. This personal gain at the expense of millions of citizens is outrageous and disgusting.

Anytime bureaucrates say money is going to go to a specific thing, as in the alcohol tax, it never does. It goes to the general fund and is absorbed. Nicky7, I work for private industry, and I haven't had a raise for 4 years and everyone here took a 10% paycut March of 2009. Furloughs aren't the answer, ALL state employees need to take a 10% paycut, it can be temporary until the budget crises passes. I haven't heard that put out there yet. This state also needs to NOT be a refugee state for illegal immigrants, they are are huge drain on the system.

I am surprised that Maryland taxpayers would agree to any tax increase, alchol, gas or any other proposal. Until there is true reduction in spending the taxpayers should should stand against any increase.

The situation in Maryland is hopeless. People keep reelecting these fools because they depend on government for their existance. There are too many pigs for the teets, and my teets are getting sore! I know at some point I'll have to leave this state. It's a shame, as I dearly love it, and my family has been here for hundreds of years.

We should raise both the gas and alcohol taxes, and accompany it with a plan to lower the state's highly regressive income tax once the economy recovers.

Alcohol taxes raise revenue for the state, and lower rates of drunk driving, domestic violence, and other social ills, all of which costs lives and money. The only people it would seriously harm would be alcoholics (who should drink less) and the liquor stores and bars who depend on them.

A gas tax would affect more people, but given the volatility of gas prices the tax would serve to raise revenue for alternatives to driving. Slightly increasing the MTA's budgets would make more frequent bus service and MARC trains on the weekends a possibility, and would reduce the state's dependence on foreign oil. The state could also use gas tax revenues to cushion sudden increases in the price of oil, which will make it easier for families to consider transportation costs when they decide where to live.

Moreover, using both revenue sources (and other "sin" taxes, like higher fees for households with more than two cars in the Baltimore-DC metro area) would allow the state to reduce the regressive income tax, which punishes middle-class families.

Raise the gas tax. It has not been raised in over a decade. Americans need an incentive to get off our addiction to Arab and foreign oil.

American money for oil is building a very fancy Saudi Arabian kingdom.

The governor and other powers of the state shouldn't find it so easy just to keep the furloughs for state employees in the budget. With a fourth round of salary reductions and furloughs coming, and hikes in just about everything else, most state employees are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.
We have mortgages, children in college, and monthly expenses which are causing us to have to remortgage our homes several times.
It would be a little helpful to our households if the powers that be would consider a compromise ; keep the salary reduction days but eliminate the extra days of furloughs.
Those days are the toughest. Those days it the household worse than a very high BGE bill.

CUT, CUT, CUT is the ANSWER, not TAX, TAX, TAX! Isn't enough enough?

CUT, CUT, CUT is the ANSWER, not TAX, TAX, TAX! Isn't enough enough? When the county, state gets decent public transportation more people will use it. It is not reliable.

As many have said above, the issue is who pays Miller more, thr liquor lobby or the oil lobby. He's been on the liquir dole for years. MARYLAND- best tegislature money can buy!

"sobering words." nyuk nyuk

Hey, y'all keep forgetting something: raising the gas tax would also be another way to hurt many, many businesses who depend on transportation, thereby driving more businesses and jobs out of the state! This seems to be part of the idiot Liberal agenda here in MD. Nothing will change until the voters wise up and get rid of the 2 Mafia Dons: Miller and Bush.

Witness the POWER of the Alcohol Lobby- for Miller to make such a strong conclusory statement shows he wants to protect monies and influence he receives from the alcohol lobby. Consituients and taxpayers be damned, let him protect this sacred cow. Even though the taxpayers would be footing the bill in the end. In such tough economic times all options should be on the table regardless of any percieved impact on alcohol sales. The drinkers will buy the the booze regardless of the price.

@Calvin: Great idea about allowing beer/alcohol sales in grocery stores. That would be great! Of course the local liquor stores and such would not appreciate that.

Who is this Miller guy? And who elected him. I haven't looked at this party affiliation and it doesn't matter. Anyone who thinks placing an additional tax on gas instead of taxing something that kills and harms many people is out of touch and has no business being representative of the people.


Did Miller say WHY this was nonsense? It would be nice to get the full content of his explanation and logic.

Wow. Just did a little research on this guy. I always vote Democrat, but I would definitely vote Republican to get rid of this guy.

Why don't we cut spending instead of figuring out new (or old) ways to raise taxes? Don't the fools in Annapolis (and DC) get enough of our money to waste as if it were toilet paper as it is?

Translation from Miller: I get a lot of money from liquor industry lobbyists.

The liquor lobby remains tremendously powerful in Maryland. Their taxes are low and they have a monopoly on the market (can't buy it alcohol in grocery stores or gas stations).

How about this, Mr. Miller? No increase in the alcohol tax, but start letting grocery stores sell beer and wine? What? We can't do that, either?

Isn't the sale of alcohol already subject to sales and (in Baltimore City) container taxes?

If the General Assembly is going to reach in my pants for my wallet the least they could do is give me a happy ending.

Record tax increases 4 years ago, painful cuts and now more regressive taxes and they still cant close the gap. All this to pay for Democrats to buy votes through the Thornton Plan. It's plain that it is not affordable.

While I am in favor of the liquor tax, and I do drink more than my share and your share at times, does anyone think a men named MILLER or BUSCH would be in favor of such a tax?

I'm sick of these politicians increasing tax's on everything. They don't mind giving tax's increases because it doesn't affect them. Politicians don't have to pay tax's so these are the same people increasing tax'. STOP RAISING TAXES. We need term limits with these corrupt leaders, they need to have taxes out of there checks, and citizens should also be able to have the same health care plan as them too. It's robbery....

For those of you who would pay higher taxes, let me suggest the following: spend a day in a public high school. Go to a school not in the City but in the suburbs, Anne Arundel, Howard, Baltimore. Attend entire class periods for a day. Vary by subject, especially attend English, Social Studies and Math.

Then decide if more money, after billions have been added to ed budgets in the past twenty years by every President and Governor has done any good. Is American education worse or better after massive spending hikes? Is the aptitude of the students to blame, the teachers, the school facilities, the overall culture or all of the above?

Before you give O'Malley, Obama or any county school board a blank check, know what you're talking about.

Do not, do not, "leave it to the professionals". We've done that. You've paid for that. Are you, after your visits, happy with the results? And if you're not happy, will more money make any differnce?

Has any of the idiots in Annapolis given any thought to the impact on gasoline tax revenue when the electric car becomes mainstream. No gas tax from them and the electric cars beat up the roads the same way. Miller and Busch are always years behind in the way they think. Slots are living proof. Now add the alcohol tax. Mike should face away from the microphone when he speaks, his voice will be a lot clearer.

I find it rather amusing how so many of you posters are suddenly talking about voting Miller, the Gov, etc. out of office... Ummm...hello... They all JUST got sworn in to another 4-year term! And I was there today so I witnessed with my own eyes. There was something called an election that occurred in November, remember that?

Mike Miller is an old southern Md. drunk and has been for years. He and a bunch of other Md. democrats need to go. The session needs to overide him on this. Who is going to not drink their beer because they have to pay another quarter? No one. Everyone has to pay more for their gasoline though.

We can not have services without paying for them. Even if Maryland said no more welfare in any form, we would still be short. Gas, cigarette and alcohol taxes need a bump up. Also lowering the payouts on lottery winnings without cutting the cost. You want snow free roads, its costs. You want good schools, it costs. You want safe streets, it costs. Accept this and move on. We are all suffering but I rather pay an extra $20 bucks to the state every month and get the services then keep that money and miss a day of work because they couldn't get to my street.

Taxing alcohol is non-sense because that is the only thing he directly pays for. He does not mind increasing the gas tax because he has a state car and tax payers pay his gas bill. These two Mike's got to go. Spread the tax love, to thing yes you Mike actually Purchase! Also they get a break from BG&E.

Some great ideas and debates here. Good to see such passion from our citizens. Wish it would have been a little more present in November, but we still have a voice. The liquor laws are crazy all over the country. The fact that we have to go through "Distributors" all of whom essentially rake in money uncontested is ridiculous. Get rid of these distributors and open up sales to Grocery Stores and other Big Box retailers but just tax them more so smaller independent business owners can still compete with them.

Candylyn, you wisely state we can't have services if we can't pay for them. You thus infer that because you believe, I assume, the services our state provides are essential, that we must pay higher taxes. You would be right if indeed the services were essential and could not be replicated by the local govts and by private corporations, nonprofits, and individuals.

Have you considered if the state govt shut down other than the state police and all other functions transferred to the locals and to private entities, that we would not be better off, at lower cost?

Without the inflated expenses of O'Malleyville, billions could be returned to taxpayers, who then could spend the money, invest the money, create more efficient local health and safety net organizations, or just give more money to the Red Cross, churches or other groups we as individuals trust. Do you trust Mike Miller or Martin O'Malley?

Our nation was founded and flourished without Medicaid and massive school brick school buildings full of bused in, sleeping and bored students who have no interest except for a few to attend a rigorous college.

Most of state govt goes to overhead, Medicaid and "education" that doesn't educate. If we return the people's money to the people, they will be able to finance quality schools and local medicine for those who really want to learn and for those who really need care.

If illegals want public services, I invite them to join America by use of America's first welfare program: private contributions.

The State House will be a fine museum, don't you think?

all states--republican & democratic--are in the red, so enuf with the blame game. big head bob was splashing around the red ink long before MOM. tax gas AND alcohol in moderation. all things in moderation (including your rhetoric, hot heads!).

I think since more people use gas, that is why he wants to tax it, the state will get more money off it, see?

Cut spending that's what you do. We pay enough taxes as it is.

I fled the Peoples Republic of Maryland 20 years ago because it was fast becoming a one party State. The Democrat controlled legislature has really become your version of a Politboro.

The real question is why are your elected officials talking about tax increases at all? O'Malley blew billions of dollars of stimulus money to save public sector jobs and avoid cuts in public sector pensions and benefits.

The public sector unions, Federal, state and Municipal, run Maryland politics. The Governor and legislature could cut 20% of these feather bedded jobs and no one would notice.

The majority of the delegates that Maryland sends to the democrat convention every year are radical left wing zeolots from the Teachers
Union and the S.E.I.U.

Marylanders, you have made your bed, now lie in it. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Amazing, the first day of this session and already "leaders" of this failed state advise increasing taxes, and then you read why these failed representatives are still in office via the comments supporting this failed rhetoric.

I am ashamed to be a resident of this state. Ignorance, apathy, and special interests are the voting block of Maryland. Hope and change are not terms the average voter here can even pronounce, much less understand.

Easy to advocate for increasing the gas tax, eh? I hope when I am at the pumps at the end of the year, and I hear a customer bitching about the prices then admit they voted status quo in 2010, that they choke on the fumes of the nozzle.

Pathetic and clueless, there's your campaign slogan for 2012, incumbents!!!

Or, is the operative word incompetents!?

So all the Republicans in the Senate voted for Mike Miller as Senate President. What a display of character and judgment. You all voted to install a man who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the redistricting that keeps the Republicans in a permanent majority in this state. Either you are in cahoots with Thomas V. "Mike" Stalin, or are hopelessly gutless. I have registered as a Republican since my teens, thinking they really stood for something. But this is it. From now on I'll go independent.

I'm just a State Employee with very little say,

I'll be on the street soon if you keep
reducing my pay.

Three years of furloughs, when will
it end?

I can't help the economy without
money to spend.

Get off the fact of the gas tax. This about a drink tax that will later be a stepping stone to increase our state sales tax to 10% across the board mark my words. I hope I am wrong but my gut is telling me it is so.

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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.
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