MARCH 24, 2011

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:55 PM

For the first time in more than four decades, a Maryland legislative committee has approved an alcohol tax increase.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee today advanced a plan to bump tax on alcohol from 6 to 9 percent over the next three years. Alcohol taxes would go up by one percentage point per year.

Budget Chairman Edward Kasemeyer noted the historic nature of the committee’s move, saying most Marylanders “probably wonder why it has taken so long.”

If it wins general Assembly approval, the tax increase is expected to pump about $30 million into state coffers next year and $85 million once it is fully implemented. The House of Delegates has yet to vet the plan.

Although the new revenue would go into the state’s general fund, the Senate committee has plans for it next year: $5 million would assist people with developmental disabilities, $8.8 million would flow to Prince George’s County, and Baltimore City would receive $12.2 million.

Because Prince George’s County has grown relatively wealthier, state aid has dropped, something the alcohol tax money would help assuage. Baltimore would use the money to pay for increasing costs of retired teachers’ health care.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and a longtime advocate for increasing the alcohol tax, cheered the tax increase proposal as “a great public health victory that will save numerous lives.”

Even a small increase in the cost of alcohol, he argues, causes a drop in drinking.

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Last modified: March 25, 2011