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Health Advocates Pleased By Alcohol Tax Use

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CBS Baltimore (con't)

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Most of the money raised by a 50 percent increase in Maryland’s sales tax on alcohol has been allocated for health needs under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget, said health advocates who cheered the result Tuesday.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said roughly $64 million has been set aside for health care purposes and the developmentally disabled.

“In sum, the alcohol tax increase money is being used for the health care and the community service programs we wanted it used for,” DeMarco said.

Last year, the General Assembly approved raising the tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent. About $15 million went to help about 500 developmentally disabled residents get off a 5,000-person waiting list to receive community services. Schools received about $47.5 million in the current fiscal year’s budget in a one-time allocation, and it was unclear last session how the money would be used in future years.

In the governor’s budget proposal, $27 million will be set aside to help the developmentally disabled, including the $15 million to continue the waiting list initiative.

About $18 million will support community health services, including $7.4 million to keep enrollment open in the primary adult care program, which covers outpatient primary care, substance abuse and pharmacy benefits. About $5.3 million will support long-term recovery and housing for substance abuse patients across the state.

Another $14.3 million will be used to expand community-based services to reduce the need to rely on institutions for long-term care.

The governor’s budget also includes $4 million to support a pilot project aimed at reducing health disparities through community-based expansions of care and services.

“We thank the governor and health secretary so much for making this happen,” DeMarco said. “Now, we’re going to work to make sure the General Assembly approves this budget.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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