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Supporters Continue Push For Alcohol Tax

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The top elected officials in Maryland’s two largest counties voiced their support to boost the state’s alcohol tax on Wednesday, while a leading advocate for the legislation said the measure still doesn’t quite have the votes needed to pass.

Montgomery Count Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker appeared with religious leaders and state senators from Prince George’s and Baltimore city at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church near the Maryland State House to speak out in favor of legislation to direct proceeds to health initiatives and caring for the developmentally disabled.

Supporters say the legislation would increase the alcohol tax by a dime on each drink sold at restaurants and stores and raise about $215 million in revenue. The bill would increase the tax from $1.50 to $10.03 per gallon for distilled spirits, from 40 cents to $2.96 per gallon for wine and from 9 cents to $1.16 per gallon for beer.

Leggett, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s wealthiest county, said Montgomery County still has needs the legislation could help address.

“We can respond to that need not just in Montgomery, but throughout the entire state of Maryland, by passing this simple tax, one that is long, long overdue,” Leggett said.

Supporters face opposition from powerful lobbying interests. Critics say the proposed tax is high and would hurt restaurants and other businesses.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said 20 senators have said they will support the bill — four short of the number needed to pass the bill. He said 66 delegates support the measure, out of the 71 needed in the House of Delegates.

“We are really close,” DeMarco said.

Sens. Verna Jones-Rodwell and Lisa Gladden, Baltimore Democrats, also attended the event, along with Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s.

“I think that the time is now,” Jones-Rodwell, a bill sponsor, said. “We cannot wait. There is a movement that we cannot let lose the momentum that’s needed.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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