Readers Speak Out On Raising Maryland's Alcohol Tax

March 28, 2009

A bill under consideration by the General Assembly would add a 5-cent tax to the purchase of alcoholic beverages ("The enablers in Annapolis," editorial, March 19).

It would be easy to argue that this increase only amounts to pennies per drink or to point out that Maryland has the lowest excise tax on distilled spirits in the nation. You could even contend that this tax hike is long overdue - the last time Maryland raised its alcohol tax was 54 years ago during the Eisenhower administration.

But the real argument in favor of this increase is that a substantial portion of the estimated $80 million raised would go toward reducing the "waiting list" - the growing roster of Marylanders with developmental disabilities in need of critical services, now numbering more than 19,000.

Because of inadequate funding, most of the families have been waiting for years. They are aging and ailing parents of adult children with disabilities who live at home and younger families that need help with their children's care 24/7.

What is a nickel worth? For individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, it means the difference between receiving critical services and continuing to do without while languishing in a chronically underfunded system.

Stephen H. Morgan, Baltimore The writer is executive director of the Arc of Baltimore.

The Maryland legislature would be wrong to raise taxes on alcohol. Increasing alcohol taxes costs jobs and disproportionally hurts those who are least able to pay them.

According to the Tax Foundation, individuals earning less than $20,000 per year face federal alcohol tax burdens that are more than 18 times higher than individuals making in excess of $200,000. Not only are hospitality taxes on wine, beer and spirits regressive, but they also contribute to job losses: After the federal government doubled the beer tax in 1991, approximately 60,000 Americans in the brewing, distributing and retailing industries lost their jobs from a shrunken industry.

Too often, hospitality taxes are treated like an ATM to generate extra revenue to make up for wasteful government spending. As Americans struggle through tough economic conditions, Maryland could not pick a worse time to increase taxes.

Sarah Longwell, Washington, D.C.

The writer is managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

In response to all those people complaining about a tax increase on alcohol, all I can say is welcome to my world. As a cigarette smoker (yes, I know it is not healthy, but alcohol is no saint either), I have seen the money flowing out of my pockets, not to mention I am banished outside in foul weather and endure other forms of degradation for something that is still legal.

So quit your whining. Did you really think the government was going to leave your vice untouched in this economy?

M. Weber, Towson

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