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State task force proposes higher tax on beer sales

BY DEVON THORSBY
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 14, 2009

Beer pong tournaments could get more expensive if a Michigan state task force gets its way.

The Michigan Child Welfare Improvement Task Force plans to recommend a higher tax on beer in Michigan, raising the tax from two to five cents per 12 ounces of beer, or about one can, in bars, grocery stores and wholesale stores. The money from the tax rate increase will go toward prevention programs for child abuse and neglect and to help children in the foster care system.

Patrick Babcock, a co-chair of the task force, said raising the taxes on beer would have a large impact on child abuse prevention programs.

“If the legislature were to adopt the five-cent proposal, we could raise as much as $110 million per year,” Babcock said. “And for five cents on the bottle, we think it’s a small amount to be able to protect our children.”

Babcock added that the group chose to tax beer because of high trends of alcoholism among abusive or neglectful parents.

“There is a relationship between the ingestion of alcohol and child abuse and neglect,” Babcock said. “Though it is not always the case, there is often alcohol involved in cases of child abuse and neglect.”

But University students shouldn’t get too worried yet because the proposal is likely to face opposition once it reaches the state Senate.

Both Gov. Jennifer Granholm and many Republican senators are opposed to raising taxes after recently increasing the state income tax, according to The Associated Press.

Matt Marsden, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, said that after the recent income tax raise, any proposal to raise sales taxes the Senate would likely reject.

“We’ve made it clear, and the governor made it clear back in February, that revenue through fees and taxes is not something we are willing to support,” Marsden said.

Marsden said that while he thinks it is a hearty attempt at raising funds for their cause, taxing various goods will not solve the state's economic issues.

“We have a $1 billion debt and a nickel of beer is not going to cover that,” he said. “We’ve had these problems with the deficit for eight years.”

Mike Lashbrook, president of the Michigan Wine and Beer Wholesalers Association, a trade association in Lansing, said that state taxes on beer are already relatively high. He said an increase would not only hurt the beer industry in Michigan, but also consumers.

“The current tax on beer is already significantly higher than neighboring states,” he said.

Lashbrook said he believed the proposed tax increase is simply an attempt to find financial support the state government will not provide, though the ramifications of such a tax could reach everyone in Michigan.

“Right now the tax increase is just a suggestion from a private task force to find funding,” he said. “But an increase that more than doubles the current rate will hurt the economy, the jobs in Michigan, and the low-income tax payer.”


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