Just as gapping budget deficits are driving drug sentencing reform in states across the nation, so too may strained finances finally trump the power of the alcohol lobby, which has kept inflation-adjusted alcohol taxation at 1950s levels for years and years. But the lobby remains extremely strong as the vast majority of states are not touching their antiquated booze tax laws. It is significant, however, that about a half dozen states, including the big bellwether state of California, have proposals in place to raise taxes on alcohol. It is not just the need to close budget gaps, though, that are behind the proposals.
Voter distaste at the lack of treatment availablity is emboldening officials to suggest taxing alcohol and using the funds offer treatment services. In New York, regulators want to tax drinks at 10 cents a piece and use the money for treatment, even though New York spends as much as California, Texas and Florida combined. Oregon and New Hampshire also want to tie alcohol taxes to treatment.