Those who argue that Kansas leaders who support increases in the state cigarette tax also should look at raising the state’s alcohol tax have a valid point.
To balance the state budget, Gov. Mark Parkinson proposed that the state should raise its sales tax by 1 percent for three years and increase its tax on a pack of cigarettes by 55 cents. At about the same time the House Tax Committee killed the governor’s sales tax proposal, a couple of Republican legislators from Johnson County also proposed doubling the state liquor tax. The legislators say the increased tax would raise about $22 million in additional revenue that would go toward supporting mental health centers and reducing the waiting list of those seeking home and community-based mental health services.
The state currently collects a tax of 18 cents per gallon of beer, 30 cents per gallon of wine and $2.50 per gallon of liquor. The taxes are paid before the products are sold at a liquor, grocery or convenience store, but the costs can be easily passed on to retail customers.
To smokers who see themselves as the state’s most beleaguered minority, an increased liquor tax makes a lot of sense.
All of the reasons leaders offer for raising the cigarette tax have valid parallels for alcohol. Cigarette smokers are costly to the state that must help support the increased health care costs of smokers. Alcohol users also raise demand for health care and mental health services. The state wants to discourage tobacco use, especially by teens. The legal age to purchase cigarettes is 18, while the legal age to purchase alcohol is 21, but higher prices that result from tax increases still could be an economic deterrent for young drinkers. Like cigarettes, alcohol also is an optional purchase, not a necessity.
Some of the same concerns about higher taxes driving people to neighboring states to purchase cigarettes also apply to alcohol purchases. This seems only to be a significant concern in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and, even there, most people are going to continue to buy most of their alcohol and cigarettes at the locations that are most convenient to them.
Smoking isn’t the only vice that is costly to Kansas. Do we even need to mention the dangers of drinking and driving? An increased alcohol tax probably would affect a higher percentage of Kansas residents than an increased cigarette tax, but why shouldn’t Kansans who consume alcohol pay a little extra to help cover some of the social costs created by alcohol abuse?