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.