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General Assembly candidates back alcohol tax

Baltimore Business Journal
August 18, 2010 – 03:04 PM
By Emily Mullins

Over 130 candidates for the Maryland General Assembly have endorsed an alcohol tax that would benefit community initiatives and anti-drinking programs throughout the state.

Among the signatures are 19 incumbent senators and 43 incumbent members of the House of Delegates. They include Sen. George Della, a Baltimore City Democrat; Del. Shane E. Pendergrass, a Howard County Demorcrat; and Pete Hammen, a Baltimore City Democrat

The money raised by the tax would expand state Medicaid coverage, provide services for people with developmental disabilities and mental health needs and offer alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs.

A coalition that includes AARP Maryland, Maryland Assembly of Family Physicians, Maryland Nurses Association, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, American Academy of Pediatrics, Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and Maryland NAACP originally signed on in support of the proposal.

The proposal was submitted July 19 to candidates seeking seats in the General Assembly, urging them to endorse the tax. The deadline for candidates to endorse the 2010 Lorraine Sheehan Candidate Resolution tax is Aug. 27.

The drink tax would seek to fill some gaps in the federal health care reform law by expanding Medicare coverage to childless adults in Maryland who earn below $12,563 annually.

The coalition estimates that raising the state’s alcohol tax by a dime a drink will reduce state health care costs by $249 million.

Maryland’s alcohol tax is the second lowest in the nation and has not been raised since 1972 for beer and wine and 1955 for spirits.

The proposal would raise the tax of beer from $0.09 to $1.16 per gallon. The tax on wine would increase from $0.40 to $2.96 per gallon, and the tax on spirits would be raised from $1.50 per gallon to $10.03 per gallon.

For consumers, a dime a drink translates to an extra $0.60 for a six-pack of beer, $0.59 for a bottle of wine and $2.25 for a bottle of liquor.