Anchorage, USA: Benefits of Local Alcohol Tax
Assembly members of Anchorage, a municipality of Alaska, USA are preparing to vote on two local alcohol tax proposals for the ballot of the April 7, 2020 Municipal Election. Both proposals show significant benefits for the local community.
Both taxes aim to fund efforts to prevent and reduce alcohol harm and homelessness, in the face of declining state funds in these areas. The tax proposals are examples of how beneficial the WHO recommended alcohol policy best buys are for local communities.
The Assembly will decide on what to send to voters in the April 7 election. Various members have repeated that they’re likely to send only one tax proposal to the ballot, if any.
The alcohol tax proposals
A 5% alcohol tax is proposed by Assembly members Felix Rivera, Forrest Dunbar and Austin Quinn-Davidson. This proposal estimates to raise $11 million to $15 million in revenue. Based on a $11.8 million estimate, the revenue is to be spent as follows:
- The largest amount, $4.5 million would go to substance use prevention, treatment programs and assistance for the homeless – $2 million for treatment centres and just over $2.5 million for shelters;
- $4.1 million would go to public safety – $1.7 million to fund 6 new police officer positions and 9 non-sworn support positions for the police department. $700,000 for additional prosecutors and public defenders and $1.7 million is for firefighter/paramedics and mental health clinicians;
- $3.1 million would be spent on preventing child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence – to be given in the form of grants, with half going to early education grants and half going to abuse prevention providers.
The next proposal is for an adjustable alcohol tax put forth by Assembly members John Weddleton and Meg Zaletel. According to this proposal the alcohol tax would start at 2% and could go up to 5%, based on need. An outline provided to the Assembly shows the tax increasing from 2% to 3% in its first few years.
- 2% tax in 2021 (first year) is estimated to raise $5 million in revenue – About $1.7 million would be allocated for behavioral health prevention and response programs, $1 million for substance abuse programs, and the remaining amount of close to $2 million for homelessness prevention and response in the form of grants for shelters.
- 2.5% tax in 2022 is estimated to generate $6.5 million in revenue – Spending on behavioral health prevention would increase by $100,000. Funding for low-barrier overnight shelter beds would triple.
- 3% tax in 2023 and beyond estimated to generate $8 million, per year – Behavioral health funding would increase to $2.85 million. The Alaska Center for Treatment would get $1.5 million toward operating costs.
Big Alcohol threatened by local alcohol taxes
As reported last year, Big Alcohol is threatened by local alcohol taxes because they could create a “ripple effect” leading to other communities adopting taxes for better health and safety. Aggressive campaigning against last years 5% alcohol tax increase led to it being voted down by a narrow margin (52% against).
I think a large part of that was because there was no well-funded campaign to reverse some of what voters were hearing from the alcohol industry,” said Tiffany Hall, executive director for the nonprofit Recover Alaska, as per, Anchorage Daily News.
AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer that owns Budweiser and various other beer brands, donated about $24,000 to the campaign against the local alcohol tax. A California-based advocacy group for the California Wine Industry gave $20,000. This year also the alcohol industry has vowed to fight the tax.
Hall is heading up fundraising for a pro-alcohol tax campaign and has said enough funds have been raised to support the Assembly approving a tax proposal.
Hopefully the alcohol tax – which will create a healthier, safer community in Anchorage – will prevail against the promised onslaught of Big Alcohol.