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New Mexico may soften on proposed beer excise tax.

New Mexico state Senate Democratic leaders appear ready to ease up on beer in their proposed liquor tax bill.

Majority Whip Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) told a Senate committee the leadership package of DWI bills unveiled two days earlier was unfair to the beer industry.

"We might be hitting beer too hard. ... That's something we can adjust," Jennings said.

He indicated the adjustment could be made as the bill works its way through Senate committees.

The Public Affairs Committee unanimously approved the tax bill and two other leadership proposals. But it was lukewarm to a fourth bill in that package that curbs liquor sales hours. That measure was simply passed along to the next committee without a recommendation.

Beer industry lobbyists called the tax proposal punitive.

Overall, it would increase the tax on alcoholic beverages to the equivalent of a nickel a drink.

The tax on beer would go from 18 cents to 53 cents per gallon, on wine from 25 cents to 34 cents per liter, and on hard liquor from $1.04 to $1.21 per liter.

It would "tend to drive people toward drinking martinis," said Anheuser-Busch Cos. lobbyist Gary Kilpatric.

New Mexico is right in the middle in its taxation of beer, ranking 24th of 50 states, said Ed Mahr, lobbyist for wholesale liquor dealers. It's 12th highest in its taxation of wine and hard liquor.

Sen. Michael Wiener (D-Albuquerque) said those statistics didn't sway him because New Mexico has the nation's worst drunken driving problem.

"Beer is the alcohol of choice of 80 percent of drunk drivers," said Anne Sawyer of Santa Fe, who teaches courses to convicted drunken drivers.

The tax increase would bring in $17 million more a year, nearly double the present yield.

Senate leaders propose using the money on alcoholism prevention and treatment programs.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Feb 15, 1993
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