Higher beer taxes?

State lawmakers look for ways to cover shortfalls

Jan 23, 2002 - Many states are looking at raising "sin taxes" in order to cover falling state tax receipts because of recession. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reports that eight states want to raise taxes on beer, wine or hard liquor. In 2001, Washington and North Carolina lawmakers boosted a surcharge on alcohol sales and a liquor tax, respectively.


To boost the so-called "sin taxes" on alcohol and/or cigarettes state lawmakers know they will have to deal with powerful lobbyists. Yet at least 16 states want to increase taxes on a pack of cigarettes, according to Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C.

In some states, lawmakers want higher taxes on both alcohol and cigarettes. Nebraska Sen. Bob Wickersham introduced two bills in early January that would raise taxes on both cigarettes and alcohol to bring in an extra $18 million to the state.

"Any time revenues are in a pinch, you're going to find what many people characterize as 'sin taxes' examined as a source of revenue," he said.

Although Wickersham said money in Nebraska is needed to close looming holes in state coffers, he said that with cigarettes in particular, many who support raising taxes on cigarettes are more interested in reducing smoking by raising the price. In other parts of the country, the same is true of raising taxes on alcohol.