Skubick: Proposed beer tax hike faces uphill climb

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Michigan’s beer tax would increase by five cents under a plan introduced at the State Capitol today.

But this measure is already a little flat.

When asked about the chances the bill had of being passed House Tax Committee chair Rep. Jeff Farrington laughed as said “this won’t go anywhere in my committee.”

Even bill sponsor Rep. Tom Hooker was realistic “this is definitely an uphill climb.”

The beer tax was raised 50 years ago. The Chamber of Commerce, beer and wine wholesalers and restaurants have successfully block any increases ever since.

The backers claim lives will be saved if the tax is hiked.

“There’s a lot of research behind this, it will reduce violence, including rapes and homicides,” said Mike Tobias of the Michigan Alcohol Policy Group. “There are increases in college graduation rates, reduces sexually transmitted diseases, reduces cirrhosis and fatalities.”

But if the increase goes to the House tax policy committee, there are those who oppose it.

“The tax we have now on beer hits lower income people harder than upper income people,” said Rep. Jim Townsend.

That was echoed by Rep. Wendell Byrd “maybe we’ll raise the price so high that people drinking beer won’t be able to buy it and we lose the ones already buying it.”

The bill’s sponsor concedes in an election year it will be tough to get “yes” votes.

“The tobacco people felt the same way when the people were attacking the tobacco industry,” said Rep. Hooker. “Obviously it took a long time but they won. You don’t win a battle by not starting. It’s a sin tax but it will save lives.”

If adopted it could raise $60 million earmarked for prevention and treatment of alcohol related diseases.

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