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O’Malley Signs Alcohol Tax Increase

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Pat Warren joined the Eyewitness News team in 1992. Pat came to WJZ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—A new law goes on the books that could cut into your entertainment dollars. Governor Martin O’Malley signed an alcohol tax increase that applies to all adult beverages.

Political reporter Pat Warren reports on the intended help and the potential harm.

Raising the cost of raising a glass. The toast “to your health” takes on added meaning in Maryland as the state raises money for the disabled with a 3 percent alcohol tax increase.

It’s the bill that caused a buzz in the General Assembly when lawmakers broke ranks with the liquor lobby with the first tax increase in four decades.

“This new law that the governor just signed will save many lives by reducing underage drinking and alcohol abuse and will bring in money that we can use for important public health and community services,” said Vincent DeMarco, of Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

Some Marylanders don’t believe the tax hike will curb underage drinking.

“When I was a kid, we didn’t care what it cost, we would get what we needed to satisfy what we wanted,” said one skeptic.

“I think kids are going to drink no matter what it cost,” said another.

But there’s no arguing the benefits for people like Aaron Kaufman, whose trip to the State House to see the bill signed was a victory walk. Money from the tax will help move him off a waiting list for community services.

“When the time comes, it’ll mean that a spot will actually be open so I, like many of my current friends from college, can move out of the house and live within the community and I’ll have the support I need within the community to succeed,” Kaufman said.

There remains a concern, however, that lower prices in border states and more expensive bar drinks will hurt retailers and restaurant staff.

“I think it’ll be less going to the actual server and more going to the tax,” said one Maryland resident.

But the governor and General Assembly have decided the benefits to some outweigh the risks to others.

“In my world, I encounter pain every day and challenges every day,” said one disabled Maryland resident who believes he will benefit from tax increase. “But you just don’t give up and as a result of this there won’t be as many 80-year-old mothers caring for their 55-year-old sons or daughters with significant disabilities.”

The tax increase takes effect July 1. The tax goes up from 6 percent to 9 percent, and the state expects to raise $85 million.

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