ANNAPOLIS, MD -- In a budget season filled with controversies over taxes, deficits and cuts across the country, Maryland just took a historic step: The General Assembly passed and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the first increase in beer and wine taxes in 38 years, and the first increase in distilled spirits taxes in 55 years.
The case for the new alcohol tax -- a 3-percentage-point addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax -- was strong. It will save lives, prevent crime and help to avert thousands of cases of alcohol abuse or dependence. It will also raise at least $85 million in revenue a year. In the first year, these funds will be used to restore much-needed services for people with developmental disabilities, shore up school budgets and support school maintenance and repairs. In future years, the funds can be used to support expanded access to health care; services for people with developmental disabilities or mental health needs; alcohol, tobacco and other drug-use prevention and treatment, and health-care worker training.
Every year, numerous states try to raise their alcohol taxes, and few succeed. Efforts were made in at least 23 states in 2010; none succeeded.
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