Miller defends the alcohol tax
"Why should all the citizens of Maryland be hit with this increase with the significant benefit going to two counties?" asked Senator E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican.
The Senate gave an initial nod to the plan this morning, which would add one percent a year for three years to the current six percent sales tax on beer, wine and liquor. When fully ramped up, the tax is expected to raise $85 million.
The plan sends an extra $8.8 million to Prince George's County and $12.2 million to Baltimore City for just next year. The two areas get the money as a way of making up for state spending cuts they face because this year they've lost wealth at a lower rate than the rest of the state than they did in previous years.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller noted that under Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan the two areas "came up short."
"It is a result of the formulas," Miller said. "It is not anybody's diabolical plan."
Miller also provided a second reason: "These are two of the largest consumers of alcohol in the state," he said. "Most of the tax revenue is generated from those two jurisdictions." Data from the Comptroller's office shows that people do like to buy booze in those two counties.
Baltimore County sold the most beer (13.4 million gallons); with Prince George's second (13.2 million gallons) and Baltimore city third (12.6 million gallons.)
The winner in the wine category, however, went to Montgomery County. Baltimore city and Prince George's came in fourth and fifth.
But, the rural counties win on a per capita basis, according to the Comptroller's office: In Cecil last year, 6.86 gallons of distilled spirits was purchased per resident. Worcester took the beer prize on a per capita basis with 59.18 gallons purchased. And the wine winner was Talbot, with 5.88 gallons sold per person.