BOISE – Should Idaho nearly triple its beer and wine taxes – the first increase in four decades – to raise money for substance abuse treatment?
Those who turned out at a packed hearing on the plan Monday were divided. Of the 24 people who testified, 14 were in favor, nine against and one neutral, with 34 more signed up to testify today.
“This increase is pocket change for the vast majority of responsible drinkers,” sponsor Keith Allred of The Common Interest, a good-government group, told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
Though the taxes would more than triple, the increase would be less than $1 a month for a beer drinker who buys a six-pack a week, Allred said. The tax also would be switched to a percentage tax on price, instead of volume, so it wouldn’t slip in buying power again like it has for the past four decades.
But Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said he’s been getting lots of calls and e-mails from Idahoans opposed to the bill – 250 e-mails Monday morning alone. “It’s interesting: You start messing with someone’s beer, they let you know,” Harwood said with a chuckle.