22 November 2010

Md. Booze Businesses Still Fighting Proposed Tax Increase

The Md. State Licensed Beverage Association, one of two trade groups in the state that concerns itself with the alcoholic beverage industry, is still rallying against proposed alcohol excise tax increases:

Despite the deceptively simple catch phrase, bars, restaurants, wineries and alcohol wholesalers think that the “dime-a-drink” proposal to increase the state tax rate on alcoholic beverages will cost them a lot more.
“They can call it 10 cents a drink. I call it $3 a case of beer,” said Jack Milani, a partner in Monaghan’s Pub in Baltimore County. Milani is legislative co-chair of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association.

Worth repeating just as raw data:

Proponents of increasing taxes on alcohol point out that Maryland has one of lowest state tax rates in the country. It was last raised in 1972 for beer and wine, and in 1955 for distilled spirits.
Currently, the state tax is 9 cents per gallon on beer, 40 cents per gallon on wine and $1.50 per gallon on spirits. The increase would add  roughly 10 cents per “drink” across the board. While this seems small, calculations have shown that the actual taxes would increase by 700% to 1,300%. 
Always beware when tax-increase advocates state the terms of a proposal as "only a dime a drink" or "a penny increase."  (Does anyone remember when tax proponents tried to make the case that the rise in the state sales tax from 5% to 6% was "only a one per cent increase" in the tax when, as anyone who stayed awake in math class knows, it's actually a 20% increase?)

I also love this line later in the article from Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and Health Care for All coalition president Vincent DeMarco:
In 2008, the current alcohol tax raised almost $29 million for the state. In addition to that sum, DeMarco projects that the increased tax would raise $214 million in new revenues. These funds would be used for an array of health services: developmental disabilities, addiction treatment and prevention, mental health, and Maryland Medicaid Trust Fund for childless adults.
An obstacle in DeMarco’s path to pass the tax increase is Gov. Martin O’Malley’s publicly stated opposition to tax increases this legislative session. DeMarco is hoping that the projects the tax would fund make a difference.
“We think the public differentiates among taxes that save lives, and this [tax] does,” he said.
As if anyone actually believes that the monies raised would not end up just deposited to the general funds eventually?  Perhaps the hospitality industry should simply go on the counter-offensive and call the proposal a "jobs-killing bill."  Hyperbole meets hyperbole.

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