While Contemplating Tax Increases Consider Sin

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Last week I vented on being carded for proof of age when buying alcohol. It must have worked because over the weekend I made purchases of adult beverages without being asked to prove I was an adult.
As we are all aware, funding the cost of healthcare is on every elected officials mind along with funding roadways and bridges. The legislature is looking at some form of a gas tax & BMV fee increase that would go to resurface roads and make for safe bridges.
So while on the subject of funding for necessities, should we consider raising the taxes on alcohol?
It’s an idea that legislators should give some thought as they mull over ways to pay for health-care related expenses — particularly when looking at investing in mental health and addiction treatment.
Currently, 50% of the revenue collected from the alcohol excise tax is distributed to the state general fund, with the remaining 50% being allocated to cities and towns according to a formula based on population.
During fiscal year 2016, Indiana collected $48.3 million in alcohol excise tax revenue, according to the state’s 2016 taxes, revenues and appropriations handbook.
Among our 50 states’ excise taxes on alcohol, Indiana ranks 24th highest for liquor, 33rd highest for wine and 40th highest for beer, according to information found at salestaxhandbook.com.
For reference on another ‘sin tax’ at 99¢ per pack, Indiana ranks 37th highest in cigarette taxes. Nationwide, the average state cigarette tax is $1.69 per pack.
According to the Indiana Division of Mental Health & Addictions, at least 50% of Hoosiers drink alcohol, although not all of them are regular drinkers. (This number could be higher if Baptists would not “bear false witness” in their answers.)
So who would pay? As it turns out, in a number of studies conducted in the past 10 years, construction workers and those in the food and beverage industries rank in the top occupations for smoking (around 30%) and for heavy alcohol consumption (11.8-17.5%).
When studies break groups down into specific professions, lawyers and doctors typically rank fourth and fifth as occupations with the highest amount of alcohol consumption.
Lawmakers (quite a few of which are attorneys) should look at alcohol excise taxes when looking for additional funding.
The studies did not indicate just where those in the newspaper industry rank in alcohol consumption. But as regular readers will know, I am not a closet drinker.
We thank the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly for their research inspiring this week’s column.