Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Alcohol Tax Drive Launched in California

Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Alcohol Tax Drive Launched in California

Article excerpt

Alcohol Tax Drive Launced in California

A "nickel-a-drink" alcohol tax initiative is under way in California with the backing of a coalition of advocacy groups who anticipate that it would raise about $800 million through an increase in the excise paid by producers and wholesalers of alcoholic beverages. The Alcohol Tax Initiative Committee submitted the initiative to the California Attorney General, and hopes to collect nearly a million signatures to qualify the initiative for the November, 1990, ballot.

Assuming hard liquor, beer and wine producers and wholesalers will pass on the full amount of the tax increase to consumers, the hike would amount to about 5 cents on each 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine and one ounce of hard liquor.

The proposed Alcohol Tax Act of 1990 would require that all new funds be spent for: prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug problems; emergency and trauma care services; child abuse programs; services for battered women; health needs of children and women due to alcohol or drug use during pregnancy; centers for independent living; law enforcement; anti-litter, vandalism and youth-at-risk programs.

The Inititive Committee says that California's alcohol taxes are among the lowest in the nation. The tax on wine has been a penny a gallon since 1937, beer has been four cents a gallon since 1959, and hard liquor, two dollars a gallon since 1967. Alcohol Tax Initiative Committee Chairman Andrew McGuire estimated that alcohol will cost Californians $13.6 billion in 1990 in health, social and economic terms. McGuire is executive director of the Trauma Foundation at San Francisco General Hospital. He said: "Although these numbers represent enormous expenses, let us not forget that they also represent thousands of deaths, disabilities and blighted lives. Drunken driving alone figures in about 50% of all our traffic fatalities.

"But the reason for this initiative is not only to raise more money to deal with problems created by alcohol and the other drugs that are often used with it. We also want more fairness in the tax system." McGuire explained that alcohol-related costs are shared more or less equally by all taxpayers in the state. Yet, most of the alcohol is consumed by a relative few, he said, referring to a National Academy of Sciences study that estimated 11% of the adult population drinks about two-thirds of all the alcohol consumed annually. "Under the current system, people who don't drink, or who drink only moderately, are paying an unfair share of alcohol's costs," McGuire said. "The way to correct that is to make the heavy drinkers pay more, and that's what this initiative will do. …

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