January’s General Assembly session is sure to have a few raised eyebrows when health care advocates introduce legislation to increase the MD state tax on alcohol by ten cents!
The idea is to deter underage drinking as well as generate revenue for universal health coverage in Maryland.
It may sound a little familiar because it is the same idea that last years’ successful campaign to double the state levy on cigarettes to two dollars per pack as a part of the health care expansion initiative. The president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, Vincent DeMarco said “ Like the tobacco tax, it’s a public health benefit”. Believe it or not he says that the ten cent tax increase would raise around $200 million per year for health care. He also argues that the reason for such high alcohol consumption rates in Maryland are due to the fact that alcohol is so affordable in the state. Mr. Demarco said “An alcohol tax is a lifesaver”.
Industry leaders plan to fight the attempts to boost the tax. They state that is will send law abiding customers elsewhere and thus decrease the already low profits.
DeMarco disagrees with this saying that MD will still have fairly low alcohol tax rates even in the increase passes. He says these companies will still profit the same with less sales to the underage drinkers. He also feels that they should be supportive of anything that will help decrease the sale of alcohol to kids.
The $1.4 billion in new taxes that passed during last years special session is still very fresh in the minds of voters. DeMarco does admit that because of this the likelihood of another tax hike is very unlikely . His point and focus is more so to gain the support of other partners and to educate the public.
In 2006 a poll of 1200 Maryland residents was conducted , 67 percent were in favor of a higher tax in order to fund alcohol and drug treatment programs.
When ask about his feelings on the peoples reactions to cigarette and payroll tax he said “Everything we’ve ever proposed has faced a lot of resistance” he said
The last increase on beer and wine in MD was in 1972 and the increase on distilled spirits was in 1955.