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Non-partisan group asks for higher beer, wine tax

Thu., Jan. 8, 2009, 3:49 p.m.

BOISE — The nonpartisan group The Common Interest is pushing Idaho lawmakers to raise the tax on beer and wine, saying the money should be put toward substance abuse treatment programs.

Executive Director Keith Allred discussed the proposal Thursday at a legislative previe.

The state tax on beer, currently set at 15 cents per wholesale gallon, hasn’t been raised since 1961, Allred said, and the wine tax (currently 45 cents per gallon) hasn’t been raised since it was established in 1971.

Allred proposed hiking the beer tax to 52 cents per gallon and the wine tax to $1.56 per gallon, and using the additional $19 million raised by the hike to pay for substance abuse programs. That, in turn, would likely reduce the state’s overcrowded prison population, he said.

But Bill Roden, a former lawmaker turned lobbyist representing the beer and wine industry, said the proposal amounted to a selective excise tax that would unfairly make a portion of the population responsible for paying for a public health problem. The majority of inmates in Idaho prisons attributed their criminal behavior to methamphetamine abuse, not alcohol, Roden said.

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