Local brewer: 'Dime-a-drink' is a 1,100 percent tax increase

March 03, 2011

As a small business owner, every dollar counts, and when you're a small brewer every dime counts — especially when that dime represents a tax increase.

Presented as an insignificant "dime a drink," the proposed tax is in reality over an 1,100 percent increase (for beer at least) and will mean price increases for consumers of at least $3 per case. This is an enormous tax increase, and I cannot think of any other tax where it would conceivable to propose an increase of this magnitude.

Advocates of the proposed alcohol tax increase argue misguidedly that it will cure all social evils by discouraging alcohol abuse, underage drinking and drunk driving. This argument is as naïve and misinformed as the academic "studies" that blamed increased highway deaths in New Mexico in the 1990s on allowing alcohol to be sold on Sundays without accounting for higher speed limits.

Advocates also argue that tax increases would be good for Maryland's economy. I do not see how. Tax increases impede growth, hurt small businesses, undercut margins and can threaten jobs. A tax increase won't prevent people from drinking, but will likely drive them to shop in neighboring states (75 percent of Maryland's counties border another state). Is this what Maryland needs as we slowly emerge from the worst recession in memory?

I submit that this is not the time to be blindly ignoring the alarming impact this measure would have on the economy, local businesses and the job market. The advocates of this bill have little to lose, but I (and many other small business owners) have a lot at stake. I urge legislators to rethink this proposal.

Hugh Sisson, Baltimore

The writer is managing partner of Clipper City Brewing Co.

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