Proponents and opponents of a legislative proposal to increase Wisconsin’s beer tax for the first time in forty years are out in force at the Capitol today. Members of a coalition backing an increase in Wisconsin’s beer tax say the money is needed to fight alcohol abuse and drunk driving. “We have a problem in Wisconsin,” says Lisa Maroney with UW Health. “We lead the country in some, quite frankly, staggering statistics, and it’s time for us to move into the mainstream and to do something to address the problem.”
The AWARE coalition backs the legislation from Madison Democrat, state Representative Terese Berceau, which would raise the beer tax from two dollars to ten dollars a barrel. “I’ve been called a prude, that’s just in the last couple of days,” says Berceau, adding that she’s not a prude, she just thinks it would be a good idea to raise the beer tax, which hasn’t increased since 1969. More money is needed in Wisconsin, to battle alcohol abuse and drunk driving, according to Kathy Poi of the Wisconsin Nurses Association.
But there’s strong opposition from the Tavern League of Wisconsin. “We are very frustrated, we’ve been taxed to death,” says league president, Rob Swearingen. “We’re looking at a statewide smoking ban beginning next July, on top of cigarette taxes that have gone up twice in the last two years.” Raising the beer tax is a “bad idea.” says Swearingen. “In a state where we’re known for brewing beer, and enjoying our beer responsibly. The overwhelming majority of our people enjoy their beer responsibly. The fact is, the beer tax is not going to help this issue.”
A hearing on the bill (AB 287) before the Assembly Public Safety Committee drew a big crowd, with people for and against spilling out into Capitol hallways.
WIBA’s John Colbert contributed this report