(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he will not support a plan to raise the state’s alcohol tax to pay for new drug treatment and prevention programs. Senate Health and Welfare chairman Jim Leddy says the tax increase is absolutely needed if Vermont is going to make a serious effort to reduce the use of heroin in the next few years.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) According to Senator Leddy, the state’s current commitment to drug education and treatment programs falls far below the actual demand for these programs. Leddy thinks the time has come to dedicate a tax source to provide additional money for this effort.
Currently the state imposes a 15-cent tax on a six-pack of beer. Leddy wants to boost the tax to 27 cents. He’s also proposing a modest increase in wine and hard liquor taxes. Leddy says the beer tax will raise about $3 million a year and the other alcohol taxes will provide another million dollars.
Governor Douglas, who has identified these programs as a top priority for next year’s budget, says he won’t support the Leddy plan:
(Douglas) “We should regard tax increases as a last resort. Vermonters are the highest taxed people in America, according to the Census Bureau web site, on a per capita basis. So we don’t need to look for ways to increase that burden by dipping deeper into their pocketbooks. I’ll propose a plan next week that will be very extensive and substantive to address the heroin problem in our state and I’ll do it without additional taxes.”
(Kinzel) Leddy says there’s never a good time to raise taxes but he’s concerned that the state’s heroin problems will continue to grow unless a comprehensive strategy for treatment and education is put into place:
(Leddy) “If we ask people to pay two cents more for a bottle of beer to respond and put money that is generated into services that are so desperately needed; if people pay a little bit more for a glass of wine or for a drink of hard liquor, I don’t think my proposal is asking for a substantial increase out of people’s pockets. It really is asking for a very modest increase of a revenue source that hasn’t been touched in 22 years to address a problem that is devastating the lives of so many Vermonters.”
(Kinzel) Governor Douglas will outline his heroin initiative as part of his budget address to lawmakers next week.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.