Lawmakers who had gripes about raising the beer tax said microbreweries and consumers would be hit the hardest.
The tax contributed $265,000 to the state's general fund in 2012. The tax on wine brought in $300,000 at 3 cents per pint Cortez Black Leather
Peterson said he will work on getting a bill Nike Classic Cortez White Varsity Red into this winter's legislative session without the help of the committee.
and spirits collected $1.2 million at 10 cents per pint, said Dan Noble, director of the Wyoming Department of Revenue.
Meanwhile, committee co chairman Sen. Ray Peterson, R Cody, said the current revenue streams used to fund substance abuse treatment centers, police officers and other associated costs with alcohol may not always last. He wants to see the tax cover gaps in funding that have been cut at the state level. And with the 10 year, across the board cuts known as sequestration biting into federal funds that go to state governments, the need to plan for the future is practical, he said.
"The [beer tax] is a hangover from prohibition," Moser said. "It's a sin tax that says this product is bad."
The state's cash cow in the booze business comes from a 17.6 percent mark up on wine and spirits charged to retailers who must buy all of their alcohol from a state run warehouse in Cheyenne. Wyoming is one of 17 states that administer alcohol as a wholesaler, and in 2012 the combined total of taxes and mark up fees brought the state $14.5 million in revenue.
"I see the need. There's no question," Case said. "But how do we get the money from the tax to the people who need it."
Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness and David Birney, director of the Peak Wellness Center, testified in favor of the tax. Warpness said alcoholism runs rampant in Riverton and on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Eighty five percent of police calls are alcohol related, he said. Birney said without new income, a substance abuse treatment center for women may close at Peak Wellness.
Peterson said he has seen the collateral damage caused by someone who didn't drink responsibly.
There aren't exact numbers, but it is likely that the cost to the state's small businesses to pay the two cents per gallon beer tax exceeds the $265,000 the state collects, Moser said.
"We are taking money out of the general fund to cover the cost of the effects of alcohol abuse," he said. "As budgets get tighter, we see the cause and the effects. We should let the people who drink pay for it."
Wyoming legislative committee can't reach conclusion on beer tax hike
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The cost to pay the tax amounts to less than $100 per year for most microbreweries, but to do the accounting and file reports monthly is an expensive undertaking for businesses to comply with law, said Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association. Wine and spirits vendors don't have to pay the tax monthly because it is charged as the mark up when they buy from the state run warehouse, he said.
"As a non drinker, why do I have to continue to incur some of the costs?" he asked his colleagues.
Some lawmakers were concerned with how the state would handle revenues that tax advocates wanted used for treating alcoholism.
Sen. Cale Case, R Lander, said he would be opposed to earmarking the hike for specific programs. Too many questions arise when trying to tackle how the money would be channeled to people who need it, he said. Instead of the normal budgeting process, the Legislature would have to figure out how to collect the revenue, administer it and judge which community gets what, he said.
"So if there is a dollar on the ground, are you not going to pick it up and get it?" Peterson said.
Every month, the microbreweries and distributors who sell beer in Wyoming have to file a report and pay the tax on the number of pints they sell.
Even with a minor price increase, beer resides in a price specific marketplace where consumers can easily shy away from buying the product in a store or at a restaurant, Moser said.
not only the lowest in the country, it is substantially lower compared to neighboring states. The national average is 28 cents per gallon.
The state has seen a surge in the number of microbreweries in the past five years. There were eight in 2008; there are now 18, he said.
The anti tax nature of Wyoming voters combined with the threat of placing a strain on some of the state's small businesses and beer drinkers has few lawmakers ready to hike the tax. Supporters of the increase in the Legislature and communities throughout the state, though, say few options are available to help provide more funding to combat alcoholism and its costly effects on Wyoming.
BUFFALO An attempt to mix alcohol with politics left lawmakers divided after they discussed raising Wyoming's two cents per gallon sales tax on beer at the Legislature's Joint Revenue Interim Committee meeting here on Friday.
Peterson was also baffled by Anderson's motion to propose a bill that would eliminate the tax and the revenue the state makes off of it. Lawmakers opposed to raising the tax fell in line with Moser's chain of thought that collecting the tax from microbrewers and distributors wasn't worth the burden to small business.
The 13 lawmakers in attendance presented differing opinions about how to resolve the issue. One draft bill and two proposed pieces of legislation all failed to receive passing votes from the committee during the meeting. Two of the bills favored an increase and one bill, proposed by Sen. James L. Anderson, R Casper, would completely eliminate the tax.
His brother in law's SUV was parked in front of his home when a drunk driver crashed into it, Peterson said. The local police and fire departments and the Wyoming Highway Patrol were all on the scene at taxpayer expense, he said.
Wyoming's tax on beer hasn't increased since it came into effect after Prohibition in 1935. Wyoming's beer tax is Nike Cortez Vintage Beige
on small business," Moser told the committee.
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