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Distilled Spirits Spends Big to Kill Alcohol Tax Increases

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The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States leads the Big Alcohol lobby in fighting state and local alcohol tax initiatives, using big bucks and formidable lobbying clout to push legislators into defeating 335 out of 364 tax increases since 2001, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. In 2012 alone, the industry spent $16 million in contributions to political candidates. Their tactics include framing the initiatives as hospitality taxes and unsubstantiated claims that alcohol taxes, often mere pennies per drink, hurt job creation.

While the industry spin doctors paint a hospitable facade, the facts say otherwise. Excise taxes help reduce excessive alcohol consumption, and offset the staggering cost of alcohol-related harm in the U.S. Taxpayers bear the costs of excessive alcohol consumption, including crime, disease, and injuries. The part of these costs borne directly by federal, state and local governments adds up to $94 billion annually, or $0.80 per drink. Federal, state and local excise taxes combined only add up to about $0.15 per drink - so taxpayers pick up the tab for the rest.

The big bucks spent by DISCUS and alcohol lobbyists have clearly produced a huge return on their investment. So far they've managed to dupe some taxpayers and legislators into subsidizing their harmful product. The good news is that states continue to propose tax increases, despite facing the Goliath lobby--nine states have already considered tax increases this year. Click to read more about how excise taxes reduce alcohol-related harm and countering industry rhetoric about alcohol taxes.