Proposed Beer Tax Hard to Quaff Down

Give State Representative Terese Berceau credit for having some guts. No political radar, but plenty of guts.

We're in the beginning stages of an election year in which State Assembly and State Senate seats, not to mention the governorship, are up for grabs. Our economy is struggling to gain traction. About the last thing incumbents should be doing any more of is proposing more tax increases, especially on an iconic industry that employs thousands.

Yet there is Berceau, once more calling for an increase in the state beer tax.

Our favorite beer-basher would like to raise the state beer tax by 2.4 cents on a 12-ounce bottle, purportedly to raise money to combat drunk driving and fund alcohol treatment and prevention. I don't know about you, but when I hear such perfect justifications, I sense the old B.S.-meter going through the roof.

I take it that means there will be a dedicated account for this added revenue, and that anyone who touches it for general purposes will die a painfully miserable political death?

Yeah, right.

To justify her sudsy stand, Berceau points to a UW health poll that shows 58% of Wisconsinites favor increasing the beer tax if the money went toward treatment and prevention of alcohol abuse, and strengthening enforcement of drunk-driving laws. Of course they do, until they remember that we've had so many funds raided in recent years that only a nitwit would think this one would be spared similar abuse.

Once lawmakers get their hands on it, who knows how it will be spent? And don't count on it being tracked to any meaningful degree.

Representative Berceau, let me give you some hoppin' good advice. We need government scholarship more than ever, but you may want to devote more of your time to creating an environment where jobs are created, not destroyed. That's the best way to ensure the government has enough revenue for lawmakers to overspend — create more taxpayers in the form of new businesses and new hires, not higher taxes.

If you want to do something about alcohol abuse and drunk diving, focus your attention on the actual abusers and drunk drivers. Beer is a product that can be, and often is, enjoyed responsibly. Happens every day, which is more than I can say for honesty in legislating.

Some may give you credit for trying to butcher a spotted, uh sacred cow, but only if your stated justifications go down smoothly. They don't.

And don't give me that backwash about your tax being just pennies on the bottle. Once you get your first taste, you'll be back for more.

So go ahead and pursue the higher beer tax. I figured that once modern day Carrie Nations got done dealing with the sin of tobacco, they'd turn their tax-raising attention to other pleasurable undertakings. Speaking of which, can a tax on sex be far behind? Judging by headlines past and present, where lawmakers literally are in bed with lobbyists, there are people in politics who probably could balance the budget all by themselves.

As for the rest of us, we've had enough shocks to or system of late. The economy tanked and tens of thousands of us still are looking for work. Our 401(k)s became 101(k)s, and a certain quarterback divorced us and ran off with our arch rival. (May they live miserably ever after in unholy matrimony, killer interceptions, and crushing playoff defeats. Serves 'em right!)

The last thing we need is government-imposed price hikes on our favorite form of relaxation.

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