Should beer drinkers foot the bill for tougher OWI laws? That’s a concept which appears to be gaining traction at the Capitol, in the wake of the state Assembly’s unanimous approval of a package of enhanced drunk driving measures.
“I came out for the beer tax, and I’ve gotten some very positive comments from people,” said Madison Democrat, state Representative Kelda Helen Roys. Roys wants proceeds used to fight drunk driving and other alcohol-abuse issues. The beer tax in Wisconsin hasn’t been raised since 1969.” Roys calls it “a very modest increase in a tax that has not been increased in forty years, to help pay for enhanced prosecution of drunk driving, to pay for better treatment and more effective programs to stop drunk driving.”
“I’m very optimistic, there’s no question that there’s a buzz in this Capitol,” says the bill’s author, state Representative Terese Berceau. “There’s no question that the public is saying do something about drunk driving, and there’s no question that legislators are saying we’ve got to come up with the money somewhere.” In 2005, the Madison Democrat proposed raising the beer tax from two dollars to ten dollars a barrel. Now, she says the increase should be even higher, to pay for the increased costs of the OWI crackdown.
“There are so many different players in this, who would like some of the money,” says Berceau, noting that the state’s district attorneys are likely to request additional staffing to deal with an increase in drunk driving arrests. A legislative panel is expected to hold a hearing on the bill in the coming weeks.
WIBA’s John Colbert contributed this report