Ortiz Unveils New Comprehensive Alcohol Tax

Assemblyman Introduces Targeted Funding Source
March 18, 2009
Albany – On Wednesday, March 18, 2009, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (51st AD-Brooklyn) joined Assemblywoman Ginny Fields, representatives from Substance Abuse Provider groups and George Hacker of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the LCA press room to unveil an innovative and progressive tax on alcohol.

As a longtime advocate for increased access to Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Education services and Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Mr. Ortiz has modeled a tax that will serve to raise revenue while curbing underage consumption. This bill, A6738, targets 70% of revenue directly to alcohol and substance abuse related areas with a focus on prevention, education, treatment and enforcement.

"In December 2008, we commissioned a poll that found 74% of New York voters were in favor of raising taxes on alcohol when they learned a portion of the funds would be invested in prevention and treatment programs. Clearly, New Yorkers understand how critical it is to take measures that address teen drinking and drunk driving," said Jennifer March-Joly, the Executive Director of Citizens' Committee for Children.

John Coppola, Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (ASAP) followed by stating, “There are few things that 74% of New York State voters agree on at all.” He continued by discussing the urgent need for increased services in New York State.

It is estimated that 15-20% consumers of alcohol drink 80% of all alcoholic beverages. At the same time, those in the lowest income brackets have lower rates of alcohol consumption than those with higher incomes, contrary to the idea that this surcharge would disproportionately target low income individuals. At the same time, many states across the country including Arizona and New Jersey have similar systems in which funds from alcohol taxes are earmarked for prevention and treatment services.

George Hacker of the Center for Science in the public interest praised an increase in alcohol taxes as “good public policy”, citing lost revenue from an overall decrease in the alcohol tax (halved from 1990 to 2009) for New York State as well as a lost opportunity to reduce consumption.

Studies that have analyzed the effects of price on underage consumption find that increasing the cost of alcohol does reduce consumption. Researchers have found that higher taxes on alcohol would increase the probability of graduation from high school as well as the probability of attending and graduating from a four year college or university.

“In raising the cost of alcohol, we are taking steps to reduce youth consumption while raising valuable, targeted, needed revenue to fund prevention programs. This surcharge has the potential to reduce consumption, much in the way that the Tobacco tax has. It is essential that prevention programs be kept for their long term benefits, rather than cut for short term savings. It is our job as parents, citizens, and policymakers to reduce underage drinking and ensure that our children’s future is bright,” said Assemblyman Ortiz.