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Lobbyist Money Help  

Should Consumers Pay for the Effects of Alcohol.

February 24, 1998
By: Maria Swan
MDN Columbia Bureau

The manager of the University Supermarket in Columbia stands behind the counter selling alcohol and cigarettes to customers. Ramzi Mefrakes (Mee-FRA-case) thinks he knows what will happen to his business if state increases fees on alcohol.

Mefrakes says, "Our prices will rise as a result of the tax, but people will pay it."

He compares the fee on alcohol to the previous increases in taxes for tobacco; if people want it, they will buy it no matter what the price is.

Mike Schilling is one of the sponsors of a bill that would increase alcohol fees. He says, "I am a recovering alcoholic. I've walked the walk and have a strong passion toward helping mitigate the huge social and economic damage created by alcohol and abusive drinking."

House Bill 1123 would increase the cost of selling wine from thirty to fifty cents a gallon and from two-dollars a gallon to three-dollars for selling liquor.

The revenue from the fees would go to the Missouri Department of Mental Health to prevent alcohol abuse.

Mefrakes says, "Alcoholic's problems should not be imposed on everyone else." He believes that if legislators are going to make Missourians pay for some of the harm alcohol does, then they should forbid alcohol period.

The sponsors of the bill, State Representatives Mike Schilling and Joan Bray, disagree.

Bray, a St. Louis Democrat, says, "I think people who drink alcohol can afford to pay a penny to help compensate for some of the damage alcohol does to our society."

The bill would set up the Alcohol Abuse and Dependence Prevention and Rehabilitation Fund.

Schilling, a Springfield Democrat, believes the state should help those affected by alcohol dependence by paying a little more to purchase alcohol.

"The need for more money to keep addiction and abusive drinking in check in Missouri is what prompted this bill."

Schilling says $20 million would be raised annually to combat illnesses associated with alcohol and twice as many people could be treated for these illnesses.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) says that liquor tax increases are not reliable social policy. They say that research shows raising costs for selling alcohol does not curb alcohol abuse problems.