Remarks by CountyExecutive Isiah Leggett
State Alcohol Tax Press Event
March 3, 2010
I pulled a dime out of my pocket this morning… and I was thinking about how little you can actually do with a dime any more.
- You can’t find a dime phone booth any more – much less a phone booth.
- You can’t buy a newspaper for a dime. Today, they’re thinner than they used to be and they cost about a dollar.
- You can’t buy a pack of gum… or even a gumball, for a dime.
But here… we have a great chance to put a dime to good use.
This proposed legislation – for a dime increase in the alcohol tax – gives us the chance to address a whole lot of our state’s problems and challenges.
A dime increase will raise more than $200 million in new revenue – badly needed revenue that will go into the General Fund.
I thought about the fact that the last time there was any increase in the beer and wine excise tax was 1972… but that the spirits excise tax has not been increased since 1955 – when Dwight D. Eisenhower – another guy named “Ike” -- was President.
But let’s also look at the facts here in 2010.
The research shows that raising the alcohol tax not only raises revenue – it leads to improved health and saves lives. How many things can you say that about?
The polls show that residents strongly support the increase, especially when they know that the revenue it generates will help to support some of our most critical health services.
And if that’s not enough demonstrated support, two major newspapers – The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post – have strongly endorsed the increase. I want to say one more thing. I absolutely understand the concerns of residents and businesses that have been hit hard by the recession and are simply opposed to raising taxes. I, myself, have been firmly committed to holding the line on taxes, as I have worked to close a combined budget gap of $1.2 billion, over my past three years in office.
But I have also not been shy or reluctant, despite the politics involved, to voice my support for targeted tax increases that have far-reaching health or environmental benefits and help to raise revenue for critical needs. My continued support for an increase in the state gasoline tax… and my support for past increases in the cigarette tax are two examples. As I close, I want to go back to Dwight Eisenhower for a minute. President Eisehnower once said – quote:
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Passing this legislation is a matter of principle. And it’s good public policy.
I am pleased to be here today. I am pleased to join with this coalition. The time to act is now.
Thank you very much.