Beer Tax on Tap at Capitol

A proposal that would impose a dime fee per beer is set for a hearing Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Assembly Bill 1019 -- a plan to impose a fee on the beer, wine and liquor industries to mitigate the billions in costs to Californians for alcohol-related problems -- will be discussed before the Committee on Health.

Revenue from the fee would be used to establish a program to be administered by state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs that would help mitigate the $38.4 billion cost of harm that alcohol creates in accidents, deaths, illnesses, injuries, and crime -- such as domestic violence.

"The industry must start paying its fair share for the problems their products cause," said Assemblyman Jim Beall, Jr., D-San Jose, author of the legislation, said in a news release. "If this fee and the program it pays for prevents another child from being born with fetal alcohol syndrome or prevents another senseless DUI fatality, it will have paid for itself and more."

AB 1019, known as the Alcohol Related Services Act, would generate $1.4 billion in revenue to fund alcohol-related emergency medical and trauma care; hospitalization and rehabilitation services; treatment and recovery services; prevention, education, and research to prevent alcohol abuse; and criminal justice and enforcement programs.

The regulatory mitigation fee levied by AB 1019 amounts to an increase of $1.07 per gallon of beer; $2.56 per gallon of wine that contains 14 percent or less in alcohol; $4.27 per gallon of wine and sparkling hard cider that contains more than 14 percent alcohol; $8.53 per gallon of distilled spirits.

The fee breaks down to about a dime per drink for a 12-ounce serving of beer, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits and 5 ounces of wine.

The fee would be levied on distributors. They and the retailers have the option of whether to pass the cost onto consumers.

"Now is the time to charge Big Alcohol for the $38.4 billion ... in harm their products cause every year in California," said Bruce Livingston, executive director of Marin Institute, the alcohol industry watchdog, in a prepared statement. "There is no better way to hold the industry accountable than a mitigation fee to fund the state's critical programs of treatment, prevention and recovery."

AB 1019 has been amended to be enacted as a fee, which could be passed by the Legislature with a majority vote. The state levy on alcohol has not changed in more than 17 years.

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