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Florida House panel passes beer tax bill for alcohol abuse.

Florida House panel passes beer tax bill for alcohol abuse

Excise taxes on beer would rise 12 cents per six-pack and raise an estimated $72 million for drug-and alcohol-abuse treatment under legislation narrowly approved by a Florida State House committee.

Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee Chairman Steve Press (D-Delray Beach), had to resort to a little-used parliamentary move to break a 9-9 tie.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Sam Mitchell (D-Vernon), who sits on all committees by virtue of his title, was brought in by Press to break the tie and keep the measure afloat.

"We've committed to take this bill as far as we can," Press said. "It's going to be very difficult."

The bill increases the tax paid by beer manufacturers, distributors and vendors to 48 cents a six-pack, with the new money going into a new fund set aside for drug- and alcohol-treatment programs run by the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services Currently, all money goes into the general revenue fund.

Because revenue projections aren't expected to pay the bills to keep current programs going, legislative budget-writers have told lawmakers not to come up with any new ideas unless they find a way to raise the funds.

Opposition to the beer tax increase centers on the fairness of forcing one industry to pay for the HRS programs and the possibility that some money would be diverted to other parts of the budget.

The beer industry in Florida already pays $211 million a year in excise taxes, said Ken Detzner of Florida Beer Wholesalers Assn.

"Penalizing a single industry to pay for the drug problem in Florida is unfair," Detzner said. "This industry supports broad-based taxes."

Detzner said the tax increase would be passed on to consumers by the wholesalers.

This isn't just an excise tax, it's a sales tax," he said.

Rep. James Hill (R-Jupiter), said the tax increase would be "a tempting target" for other law-makers desperately seeking ways to pay for projects in a tight budget year.

"I am not assured that this money, at the end of the legislative profess, will go where it is aimed to go," Hill said.

But other legislators said the tax increase enables a pressing problem to be addressed.

House Speaker Tom Gustafson (D-Fort Lauderdale), also lobbied for the bill, telling the committee that treatment of drug and al alcohol abuse is one of the state's most important services.

"Even though we don't like a tax, we're willing to reluctantly vote for a tax in this important area," he said. "If you can, vote your conscience for this bill."

Given the narrow margin of passage, Detzner said he doubted the bill would make it through two more committees to the full House.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Apr 30, 1990
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