Senate Bill Seeks To Increase Liquor, Beer Tax

ANNAPOLIS – Booze could be the next industry targeted for a tax increase, if one legislator has her way.

Senate Bill 232, sponsored by Senator Jennie M. Forehand of Montgomery County, calls for significant increases in the taxes retailers pay for alcoholic beverages in Maryland.

The bill calls for, “Increasing the state tax rates for alcoholic beverages in Maryland from $1.50 to $4.50 per gallon for distilled spirits, from 40 cents to $1.20 per gallon for wine, from 9 cents to 54 cents per gallon for beer, expressing the state tax rates for alcoholic beverages alternatively as 89.1843 cents for each .75-liter container of distilled spirits, 23.7825 cents for each .75-liter container of wine and 5.0625 cents for each 12-ounce container of beer.”

That’s unacceptable, says Worcester County Licensed Beverage Association Executive Director Charlene Elliott-Carr, who plans on testifying vigorously against the bill in Annapolis.

Ever since the special session last fall, when a number of taxes including the cigarette pack levy were increased significantly, there have been political commentaries and letters to the editor suggesting all the so-called “sin” taxes should see a hike out of fairness.

“Naturally, all the taxes have been raised and some people were complaining how come the alcohol tax has not been raised in almost 30 years,” Elliott-Carr said. “What I think people forget is they are already paying an additional sales tax and in Ocean City another cent. Now they are talking about raising the gallonage tax, they’ve already raised the cigarette tax. It’s just another level of taxation and the fact is it’s the consumer who pays it. It’s going to result in higher drink prices.”

The bill was introduced on Wednesday and the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee heard the legislation’s customary first reading this week.

Elliott-Carr said Wednesday she does not think it will pass.

“I don’t think it will get through,” she said, explaining the support is not there.

If somehow the bill was to get some traction and pass, Elliott-Carr, who is the chief financial officer for the Purple Moose Saloon in Ocean City, said it would be just another piece of bad news for the local and visiting consumer.

“People say Ocean City is overpriced already. This would just be another reason for that image. … Everybody’s trying to cover their bases, but they’re doing it naturally on the backs of the consumer. It has to go through to the consumer,” she said. “When do you say ‘enough is enough’? It’s a drink tax … they’re making it impossible for people to go out and enjoy themselves. All these increases are starting to add up, especially when people are already complaining about their electric bills, gas prices, property taxes and the list goes on.”

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