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Lawmakers look to boost the booze tax in MD

January 5, 2011
WASHINGTON – Energized by a poll showing broad public support, lawmakers will soon advance a dime-per-drink tax increase in the Maryland General Assembly.
“We’ll be probably putting in a bill in the following three weeks,” said State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery).
A poll released by Opinion Works shows 66 percent of likely voters support the proposed tax increase if the money is dedicated to health-related causes, such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and health care for the uninsured.
Maryland last raised taxes on beer and wine in 1972. Liquor taxes have not increased since 1955.
The shifting public opinion on a tax increase has unusual timing.
“We’re at a low point of faith in government and we could document that through numbers in our polling in Maryland, and yet this particular tax proposal enjoys widespread public support,” said Steve Raabe, president of Opinion Works.
Another study released from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health says a tax increase on alcoholic drinks would cut consumption by 4 percent, leading to fewer alcohol-related deaths.
“Increasing alcohol tax saves lives,” said Vincent DeMarco, a lobbyist helping to push the cause. “It will reduce drunk driving, reduce other forms of alcohol abuse that really harm many people and kill many people.”
The alcohol tax recently advanced and failed in the General Assembly. Supporters now believe it will pass in 2011.
“During the election, one of the things that many groups focused on was what is the candidate’s stance on raising the alcoholic beverage tax,” Madaleno said. “As a result of the election, we have 20 people in the senate who have pledged to support the alcoholic beverage tax.” Among the delegates, 64 have already pledged their support.
Under this proposal, a six-pack of beer would cost an extra 60 cents. A bottle of wine would increase around 70 cents.
(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)