State Rep Introduces Beer Tax Hike

Wisconsin has the third lowest beer tax in the nation. But in a state known for its drinking, problems associated with alcohol are costing the state more than it can handle.

But at the same time, breweries say they can't handle any more of a pinch on their pocketbook.

"We have a serious drinking problem in the state of Wisconsin," says State Representative Terese Berceau (D-Madison), "We have a lot of alcohol abuse and we need funding for treatment programs."

That's why she is proposing a hike on the state's beer tax. It would raise the tax on a barrel of beer from $2.00 to $3.00. That's a $0.02 increase on a six-pack. And is estimated to generate nearly $5 million a year.

"Let's call it a user fee," says Berceau, "If you're drinking 10 beers a night you probably have a problem. It's going to show up somewhere, taxpayers are going to end up paying for your problem."

In fact, nearly 60,000 people were in alcohol treatment programs in 2001 and there are currently waiting lists to get in.

Program directors say they need all the money they can get.

But breweries feel the same way, with the high cost of energy and a decrease in manufacturing.

Carl Nolen, Capital Brewery President, says, "At the end of the day almost 5 million dollars in new revenue for the government to use for a good cause... sure it sounds great. But 5 million dollars is 5 million dollars and can that be absorbed? I don't know."

Nolen says they may have to pass on the cost to consumers. But Berceau says it's a cost people should pay.

"If you abuse alcohol we the taxpayer, all of us, end up having to take care of you and we need money to do it."

Nolen also says he fears one tax hike would open the door for many more, as we've seen the the cigarette and gas taxes.

In fact, you would have to sell 213 six-packs to equal the same amount of tax revenue the state gets from one carton of cigarettes.

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