Need in Wyoming for higher beer tax is real, and it is not going away

Feb 12, 2014 Ron Warpness, Mayor, Riverton


This is an open letter to all our elected legislators who are starting the new legislative session. You are going to have the opportunity to do a great thing for all the citizens of Wyoming, something that has not been done in the last 79 years.

While some may not see it as a great thing, given the problem that it can address, I see it as a "golden opportunity."

Hundreds of our citizens are caught in the grip of alcoholism. To each of these citizens, this is a very destructive behavior that spills over effecting thousands of others who may be innocent family members or law-abiding citizens, many of whom may not even drink at all.

All of us, however, have to share the millions of dollars in costs for the mayhem that is spread across Wyoming. I feel that it is not unreasonable to ask the beer consumers, who have not had an increase in tax for the last 79 years (since 1935), to have this tax on beer be raised to the national average of 28 cents per gallon from its current 2 cents a gallon, which is the lowest tax of any state in the union.

We could then apply that revenue to address this serious problem. To put things in perspective, the tax on a case of beer is 4.5 cents. The tax on a carton of cigarettes is $6. The tax on one cigarette is 3 cents, which is more than the tax on a gallon of beer, and there are 10 12-ounce bottles of beer.

It is my understanding that there is proposed legislation to increase a pack of cigarettes by another $1. That will bring the tax up to $16 a carton? I would just like to observe that cigarettes do not kill people on the highways or cause families to beat each other up as alcohol does. Smoking is a problem that I do not want to minimize, but let's get real.

Rehabilitation for our citizens who want to get out of the grip of alcoholism is expensive, and the estimated $3.7 million that a 28-cents-a-gallon tax increase for beer would be a godsend to many who are struggling with this problem.

This increase would mean that the tax on one beer would be about 2 cents. Anyone who feels this is excessive is either in the beer business or has no concept of the cost that municipalities and law enforcement incur trying to deal with alcohol abuse on a day-by-day basis.

I have talked to some that are opposed to this increase just because it is a "tax" but, when pressed, they offer no viable solution for funding this statewide need.

Please reflect on these facts as you consider this legislation. The need is real, and the problem is not going away.

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