Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Coalition Mounts New Drive for Higher Alcohol Excises

Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Coalition Mounts New Drive for Higher Alcohol Excises

Article excerpt

Coalition Mounts New Drive for Higher Alcohol Excises

The National Alcohol Tax Coalition (NATC) - a broad-based grouping of health and consumer organizations - urged Congress and the Bush Administration to raise federal excise taxes on alcoholic beverages by about $15 billion annually as a means of reducing the budget deficit and curbing health and social problems related to alcohol use.

At a Feb. 28 news conference on Capito Hill, the Coalition released a major report, the "Impact of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Federal Revenues, Alcohol Consumption, and Alcohol Problems," which was sent to President Bush, Drug Czar William Bennett, Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan, and key Congressional leaders.

The 29-page report, prepared for the NATC by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), recommended that tax rates on alcoholic beverages be adjusted for inflation since 1972; that all alcoholic beverages be taxed equally based on their alcohol content; and adjust tax rates be adjusted annually for inflation and standard of living in the future.

CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said the economic and social costs of alcohol runs over $130 billion a year, and referring to the federal government's share of these costs, added: "The federal government is running a deficit when it comes to alcohol. The $23 billion that alcohol costs the federal government far exceeds the $5.7 billion that the Treasury collected in excise tax revenues in FY-88."

Christine Lubinski, Washington Representative of the National Council on Alcoholism (NCA), told the news conference that federal excise taxes on beer and wine have not been raised since 1951, while a modest increase in distilled spirits taxes was enacted in 1985. She pointed out that under federal tax rates,, alcohol in liquor is taxed at 17 times the rate of alcohol in wine and four times the rate of alcohol in beer. "This disparity has no sound basis in public policy - alcohol is alcohol," Lubinski said. She also pointed out that the failure to raise beer and wine taxes has resulted in a decline in the real price of alcoholic beverges to the point that in some cases beer is less expensive than soft drinks.

The news conference featured an appearance by noted economist Lawrence Summers, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University, who said, "Raising taxes on alcohol would reduce the federal deficit and make the economy more efficient at the same time. …

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