Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Great State Disconnect

A recent telephone poll conducted by Opinion Works revealed that over half of Maryland voters support a ten cent increase in the state liquor tax. According to this story by Len Lazerick in Maryland Reporter “Legislative leaders have repeatedly pledged to pass no new taxes this election year, but a new poll says half of Maryland voters think they should make an exception for a 10-cent per drink tax on alcohol.”

It’s not likely to pass this year though. Powerful lobbying efforts by the states licensed beverage dealers and the restaurant association are working to keep it bottled up in committee. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun, they’ve done a good job working on the Howard County delegation.

“Only one of the county's 11 legislators supports a no-strings-attached alcohol tax increase, while five, including all three Republicans, oppose the idea outright. And four lean toward being against it but are willing to listen, they said.”

It’s pretty much the same story with the state laws that prohibit the direct sale of wine to consumers. According to this story by Julie Bykcowicz in The Sun, “The movement to legalize wine shipping has grown to more than 20,000 supporters, according to Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, an advocacy organization. Dozens of social media and e-mail groups have sprung up.” And even though a majority of the senators on the health committee considering the measure support it, the committee chair, Senator Joan Carter Conway, doesn’t and has successfully kept it from moving forward.

Why this disconnect between what the voters wants and what our state legislators want?

I’m not exactly sure but it could have something to do with the fact that the liquor lobby isn’t keen about any changes in the status quo of the Free States archaic liquor laws.

“The liquor lobby that protects the system is one of the top campaign contributors, giving to more than 80 percent of the 188 General Assembly members - all of whom are up for election this fall.”

Your friendly neighborhood liquor store is friendlier with the politicians than the consumers.

10 comments:

HoCoRising said...

Nice post. We may not have the money, but I think our voices are getting louder.

Freemarket said...

Wordbones, 10 cents may not seem like much per drink, but when you add 60 cents in tax to a $5 six pack, you are looking at a tax rate of over 10% to a beverage that is already taxed. This is a very regressive tax.

Why aren't you advocating a tax on milk? Or baby food? Liquor consumers are paying well more than their fair share already.

Trevor said...

Freemarket, I agree with you. We have enough taxes in this state already. Liquor store owners are small business owners trying to earn a living and support employees. The last thing we want to do right now is anything that will hurt small business owners, such as new taxes. The state needs to look more seriously at cutting it's addiction to spending before any new taxes are added.

On the other hand, I am fully in support of allowing the shipping of alcohol through the mail. It is time we got rid of the nanny-state we have, and allow citizens to make health decisions on their own. I read that New York state is considering a ban on salt in restaurants! How long before Ulman or O'Malley get wind of this idea and ban an essential nutrient from our food. First Wine in the mail, then tanning beds... is Salt next?

John Bailey said...

It is an easy guess as to which state legislator wants a no strings attached tax increase. It is Liz Bobo. Now is not the time to increase a tax on small business owners, especially when we are so close to DC and VA and people can drive there to purchase alcohol. Small businesses are hurting, it is unreasonable to try and increase their pain with a tax increase. Just another example of how far out of touch Liz Bobo is with what is best for the small business community.

wordbones said...

fm, John,

I'm really not a fan of higher taxes but do believe the tax burden should equally shouldered by all business. Maryland has the lowest liquor tax in the country. It hasn't gone up in 30 years.

Either we raise that one up or we lower all the others to what they were 30 years ago. I'd be okay with that too.

-wb

Freemarket said...

WB, that makes no sense. Groceries are not taxed at all. Why not start taxing those since we want to tax all business?

Liquor just happens to be a politically popular whipping boy for politicians who lack the resolve to curb spending to sustainable levels.

Anonymous said...

@ John. Red herring. Its more likely that people from DC or VA will drive to MD to buy liquor here - we have a lower tax rate. Nice sound bite though.

Unless you are prepared to say that sales taxes on non liquor products should subsidize the liquor industry...

Anonymous said...

TAXES AGAINST SINS
CIGARETTES, ALCOHOL
IF WE ARE LOOKING FOR TAXES, LET'S LEGALIZE POT AND PROSTITUTION. WE ARE MISSING OUT ON BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN MARYLAND.
I AM FOR LOWER TAXES FOR THE SMALL BUSINESSPERSON REGARDLESS.
I AM NOT SURPRISED THAT LIZ'S NAME COMES UP HERE. ACCORDING TO WHAT I HAVE HEARD, SHE HAS A 17% PRO BUSINESS VOTING RECORD. SHE MIGHT STILL BE SMARTING FROM LOSING THE SECOND TERM AS COUNTY EXECUTIVE WHEN SHE SET LIMITS ON BUILDING PERMITS.
LET'S FACE IT.
MARYLAND DESPERATELY NEEDS MONEY. WE ARE NOT AT THE POINT OF GIVING IOU'S TO STATE EMPLOYEES YET BUT IT COULD HAPPEN. SMALL BUSINESSES AND WE ARE NOT ONLY GRAPPLING WITH INCREASING STATE SALES TAXES AND SIN TAXES BUT ALSO INCREASING UNEMPLOYMENT TAXES, INCREASED HEALTHCARE COSTS,INCREASED POSTAGE, AND A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BENT ON UNFUNDED MANDATES, INCREASED CAPITAL GAINS TAXES, EXPIRATION OF TAX CUTS, AND A HOST OF INDIRECT, HIDDEN TAXES IF CAP AND TRADE IS EVER PASSED. IT ALMOST BOGGLES ONE'S IMAGINATION, DOESN'T IT?
lET'S HOPE OUR VOICES ARE HEARD EVEN IF WE HAVE TO SCREAM AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS. OUR STATE AND FEDERAL POLITICIANS HAVE NOT BEEN VERY RESPONSIVE TO CONSERVATIVE, FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. PERSONALLY, I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO FIGURE OUT HOW I CAN BUY A MAZZAROTTI, A NEW HOME FOR $8,000,000, TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD, AND TAKE A $20,000,000 SPIN INTO OUTER SPACE, ON A $100,000 SALARY. OUR FEDERAL LEGISLATORS SEEM TO THINK THAT A FEW TRILLION IS CHUMP CHANGE. LET'S HOPE OUR STATE LEGISLATORS ACT MORE RESPONSIBLY.
HH

HoCoRising said...

We should tax capital letters.

wordbones said...

I know. My ears hurt.

-wb