Proposed tax initiative could cause booze prices to soar

March 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new initiative that would increase the tax on alcohol has been cleared for signatures by the secretary of state's office. That means it could get on the November ballot. If it does, voters will be asked to raise the tax on booze dramatically.

People think it is ridiculous that a proposed initiative would raise the state excise tax on a regular bottle of wine from 4 cents to $5.11.

"That'll slow me down real good. It'll make my wife happy," says Wendall Taylor from Oakland.

The excise tax on a six-pack of beer would jump from 11 cents to $6.08 and the tax on a 750 ml bottle of spirits would go from 65 cents to $17.57.

"What am I paying for? Is it going to schools? Is it going to creating jobs?" asks Taylor.

Supporters believe it would raise $7 to $9 billion that would go to support alcohol-related programs and services.

"Ooh. That sounds like a lot, a bit too much. I wouldn't buy it," says Dan Miller from Oakland.

Because of that, a state analysis shows excise tax revenue would actually shrink by several hundred million dollars.

This is one of 85 initiatives and referendums cleared for signatures. Last year, voters considered six ballot measures, but one year there were 20.

"They tend to be complicated as explained, and so people look at a lot of things to vote on," says SFSU political science professor Robert Smith.

Smith says it gives voters the false sense that they're legislating.

"Most political scientists actually think it does damage to the democratic process because you put so many initiatives on the ballot that people find it difficult to make sense of it," says Smith.

The proposed alcohol excise tax initiative still needs 434,000 signatures, but it could be one of the many initiatives and referendums voters will see on your ballot.


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