Wisconsinites and businesses have two strong opposing views on the proposed increase in Wisconsin’s beer tax. According to The Capital Times, “Raising Wisconsin’s beer tax might slow sales and rise commodity and energy costs for Wisconsin’s craft beer industry.” Opponents believe that Wisconsin’s craft brewers and distributers employ thousands of people statewide with good-paying jobs and that raising the beer tax would destroy such jobs they’ve created and drive new businesses out of Wisconsin. Opponents confirm that in spite of Wisconsin’s low beer tax (the third lowest in the country), federal, state, sales, payroll, business, and other taxes and fees already add up to about 40 percent of the retail price of beer; and that the tax is already high enough. Supporters of the beer tax increase proposal, though, have a different take on this issue.
According to the Mellman Group, Inc. , in addition to Wisconsin being the 3rd state in the country to have the lowest beer tax, the beer tax hasn’t been raised in 40 years. Supporters believe that the benefits of a beer tax increase outweigh the costs because increasing the beer tax saves lives. Cheap beer only contributes to increased underage, heavy drinking, and binge drinking. The revenue generated from the beer tax increase, estimated to be more than $40 million, could help solve Wisconsin’s problems by funding for programs to treat and prevent alcohol abuse and by tightening the law enforcement of drunk driving.
Studies show that increasing alcohol tax saves lives. Alcohol-related deaths, for example, dropped 29 percent in Alaska after a tax hike in 1983; that’s 23 fewer deaths per year. In 2002, Alaska underwent another alcohol tax increase and saw an 11 percent reduction in alcohol-related deaths, saving more than 20 lives per year. This is why I have always supported the proposal. As mentioned, the Wisconsin state tax on beer hasn’t been raised in four decades and the state is long overdue for an increase. As stated by the Wisconsin State Journal, by increasing the beer tax, Wisconsin would raise enough revenue to pay for substance abuse programs and help individuals get the treatment they need to recover. Since alcohol and drug abuse affects everyone, “A few pennies per beer is well worth safer roads and saved lives.”