Dime-a-drink alcohol tax increase is good policy and good politics

March 08, 2011

In his letter criticizing the proposed dime-a-drink alcohol tax, which will reduce underage drinking and alcohol-related deaths, beer brewer Hugh Sisson failed to mention that when the tax goes up he and other alcohol sellers are likely to add an additional mark-up to increase their profits ("Local brewer: Dime-a-drink is a 1,100 percent tax increase," March 3).

That is why he says our proposal will increase the price of a case of beer by over $3 when his own industry experts agree that the tax increase itself will only cause an increase of $2.41 per case.

At the Senate hearing on the dime-a-drink bill, senators asked the alcohol sellers why they would add a mark-up to the tax if they feared it would cause a loss of jobs and customers to other states. They had no real answer.

Mr. Sisson also complains that our proposal would increase the beer tax by over 1,000 percent. This is because our present tax on alcohol is so low — not having been raised on beer and wine since 1972, and on spirits since 1955 — that making the tax a reasonable amount is a big increase over the status quo.

Imagine that you paid your adolescent child an allowance of a penny a week: Bringing that up to a dime surely would not be unreasonable — but it would be a 1,000 percent increase.

The people of Maryland understand this, and that is why 66 percent of them support our Lorraine Sheehan dime-a-drink alcohol tax proposal. And because our life-saving proposal is both good policy and good politics, we believe the Maryland General Assembly will enact it this year.

Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

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