Anchorage Goes to the Polls for Charge for Harm

A keg in the snowUPDATE 4/10/19: Prop 9 seems headed for defeat. As of the most recent ballot count, votes opposing the bill lead 34,076 to 29,291. "This is disappointing," said Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO Bruce Lee Livingston, "but it's hard for localities to get Charge for Harm bills passed when Big Alcohol spends hundreds of thousands on deceptive advertising to tilt the scales. Congratulations to Anchorage for even proposing this kind of smart, forward-thinking solution to alcohol harm."

Imagine a drug which has the potential to hurt someone, even ruin their life. Imagine that this drug is associated with injury, accidents, and violence. Now imagine if someone asked you to put aside a few cents each time you used this drug, just in case these destructive outcomes happened to you. It just makes sense—you are charged for the potential harm the drug causes. On April 2nd, voters in Anchorage, Alaska, go to the polls to decide on just such a Charge for Harm tax, Proposition 9. And Big Alcohol is flooding the airwaves to keep common sense from becoming law.

The bill, Proposition 9, would raise taxes on alcoholic beverages by 5%. According to Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz, the money would be solely dedicated to detox and treatment services, programs aimed at addressing homelessness, and public safety initiatives. It even has the support of some liquor store owners. But megabrewers Annheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have jumped into the fray, backing opposition campaigns that try to portray the tax as antithetical to Alaska.

Yet 11 other communities in Alaska already have local alcohol taxes, including Fairbanks and Juneau. Alcohol harm remains a pressing problem for Alaska. According to Proposition 9 backers Recover Alaska, alcohol harm costs the state $1.84 billion and directly causes 285 deaths yearly. As Sgt. Jeremy Conkling of the Anchorage Police Department points out in an op-ed supporting the tax, “[we] are already paying for these social woes. Paying for police and fire service, emergency room costs and emergency housing is expensive, and does do much for keeping individuals or the whole community safe. It’s a Band-Aid for the overall problems.”

Rather than seek short-term help for the chronic tragedy of alcohol harm, Anchorage voters have the opportunity to take responsibility for the healing process. On April 2nd, they have the chance to take the most powerful action in the name of Charge for Harm: make it a normal part of everyday life.

READ MORE about Charge for Harm.