I like beer. In moderation, of course (well, most of the time). It's tasty and a big part of my hometown's culture, traditions and folklore. It's the drink, after all, that made Milwaukee famous. When I drink it, I feel like I'm helping my city. It's good for the soul.
Today, though, several people tell me that our local newspaper wants our state government to tax our beer. Many have forwarded me a JSOnline opinion piece called "Political non-starter? This makes no sense." In it, the editors call for more taxes on our beer and alcohol.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for tightening our drunken driving laws and for throwing the book at offenders. But why should we have to pay for government's bloated budgets with our beer?
Tax cigarettes to death, I don't care. Sure, call me a hypocrite, but I despise cigarette smoke and smokers don't seem to care about the extra costs. But, beer drinkers do. And, frankly, since I am one I don't want my beer tax raised unless it's going toward something that I want.
Use the Talkback feature to tell us what you think about increased beer taxes in Wisconsin.
Excerpt from JSOnline. Sunday, March 22, 2008.
There is absolutely no reason that increased taxes on alcohol shouldn't be directed to the undeniably huge costs alcohol abuse imposes on society. And if this, too, is poached, anyone want to argue that the budget can't use the help?
So why is this a political non-starter for virtually everyone from Gov. Jim Doyle on down?
Their fears are based on a false premise. The theory goes this way: Because of Wisconsin's tradition as a brewing state and its storied culture of drinking, raising the beer tax in particular is tantamount to political suicide. Wisconsinites would rise as one to unelect the latter-day prohibitionists.
This notion does Wisconsinites a huge disservice.
Properly explained and with funds earmarked, increased beer and other alcoholic beverage taxes would be accepted as having little impact on consumers' wallets but huge benefits for the state's revenue and health picture. And this could withstand predictable alcohol and tavern industry assaults.
Winding their way through the Legislature are much-needed bills addressing the state's problem with drunken drivers. Among them are proposals to make the third or fourth drunken driving offense a felony (now a misdemeanor until the fifth offense) and requiring so-called ignition interlock devices for certain convicted drunken drivers. Other proposals that must get traction involve permitting sobriety checkpoints and criminalizing that first offense to at least a misdemeanor.
Law enforcement officials have legitimately raised the issue of increased costs if these come to pass.
The state desperately needs reform of its antiquated drunken driving laws. Alcohol taxes can knock down one argument conspiring against this.
The governor and the legislators have been saying, in the face of this current revenue crisis, that all items are on the table. Which makes their allergies to alcohol taxes all the more puzzling. Increasing the beer and other alcohol taxes is simply the right thing to do.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.