Sunday, December 06, 2009

I’ll Drink To That

In this editorial in The Sun today, the paper called for increasing the state tax on alcoholic beverages by a dime. According to The Suns editors, Maryland has one of the lowest alcoholic beverage taxes in the country. In addition to helping the looming state budget crisis, the editors cite public health and safety benefits as well.

“As a recent report prepared by two professors from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health makes clear, raising that tax to the equivalent of about 10 cents per drink would pay huge dividends. By their estimate: 14,987 fewer cases of alcohol dependence, 37 fewer deaths (many of them traffic-related), 13 fewer rapes, 316 fewer assaults, 21 fewer robberies, 67 fewer incidents of severe violence against children and 19 fewer cases of fetal alcohol syndrome each year.

That may seem a leap of faith, but Professors David H. Jernigan and Hugh Waters say they have the real-world experience to back it up - dozens of studies showing that whenever states raise the tax on alcohol, drinking (and excessive drinking) declines. They predict the higher tax would reduce consumption in Maryland by slightly under 5 percent; the public health benefits accrue from that.”

There isn’t much chance of this happening though. The licensed beverage lobby is extremely influential in our state and would likely mount a concerted effort to stop it not to mention that raising any new tax in an election year is also considered political suicide.

“If history is any guide, lawmakers are bound to be reluctant to raise taxes next year. But protecting the alcohol industry at the expense of schools and other vital services (not to mention bankrupting local government) may raise the ire of voters more.”

It will be interesting if any our local legislators’ have the courage to get behind this initiative. Judging by their recent bipartisan willingness to limit consumer choice in Howard County I say that is highly unlikely.


Freemarket said...

Raising a tax that is already very regressive just doesn't strike me as a great idea.

Here's a better idea, although perhaps just as politically insufferable: legalize marijuana and regulate/tax it like alcohol. It's safer than alcohol, has medicinal value and significant savings would be realized in law enforcement/justice system costs. As someone who despises government regulation, I couldn't ask for a better example of government stupidity and injustice than the war on marijuana. Ironically, a large number of people (including law enforcement officials and politicians) agree with me on that point and yet nothing gets done about it.

Anonymous said...

Hold onto your tax dollars Freemarket and WB, don't ask the state to increase any tax. The feds are interesting in reforming healthcare and taxing us beginning next year until 2014 when the healthcare reform kicks in. Pres Obama is also interested in passing the Cap and Trade bill which will triple our utilities cost. Dingbat Pelosi has proposed a value added tax like Europe in which tax is added at every step of the products lifecycle from manufacturing to distribution. Inheritance taxes are going up.
Capital gains rate is being increased.
The Bush small business taxes will be allowed to expire by Pres Obama.
The huge deficit being created by the feds and the devaluation of the dollar is going to dramatically increase the cost of goods manufactured overseas.
When you think of these taxes, try to consider that they will be influencing the price of food and gas.
It's change you can believe in.