Wyoming Leg Ponders Charge for Harm

With a bold plan to use alcohol taxes to fund recovery, the Cowboy State wears a white hat


Go get 'em, cowboy stateAs the federal government becomes obsessed with tax cuts—including ones specifically earmarked for Big Alcohol—the Wyoming state legislature is living up to the headstrong cowboy image.  The body’s Interim Joint Revenue Committee is exploring raising its alcohol excise taxes and state-collected alcohol fees, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. The Wyoming Legislative Service Office estimates the state would take in an additional $6.4 million, $1.4 million of which would be a Charge for Harm tax to fund alcohol recovery services.


The Charge for Harm element of the alcohol tax reform bill was proposed by Sen. Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan). Sen. Kinskey had been researching ways to raise revenue in light of the state’s earnings shortfall due to declining fossil fuel revenue, and found that alcohol taxes had been proposed as far back as 1930 by the sitting Democratic Governor. Even today, generating revenue and paying for vital health enjoy bipartisan support in the state. The Star-Tribune reports the results of a recent poll in which 78% of Wyomingites supported raising alcohol taxes.


“Charge for Harm is such a simple concept—use the revenue from alcohol sales to reverse the harm of alcohol,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, CEO/Executive Director of Alcohol Justice. “But we still need decisive lawmakers like Sen. Kinskey to make it more than just a good idea.”


Although Wyoming could join the vanguard of states aggressively pursing Charge for Harm strategies, $1.4 million is from enough to address the full scope of alcohol-induced costs to the state. According to a study from the Wyoming Department of Health and the University of Wyoming, the state spent over $840 million in 2010 to address the harms from alcohol use.


READ MORE about Charge for Harm strategies.


READ MORE about how alcohol taxes can close state budget shortfalls.


USE the Alcohol Justice tax calculator to see how a few cents can make a huge difference for your state.