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Church Leaders Urge Hike in Alcohol Tax

April 14, 1990|From Religious News Service

Raising the federal tax on alcoholic beverages would have the dual benefit of cutting alcohol consumption and reducing the federal budget deficit, according to a joint appeal to Congress signed by eight national religious leaders.

The letter, which was initiated by the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, says that federal excise taxes on beer and wine have not been raised since 1951. "The result has been that the real price of beer and wine has decreased compared to other commodities," the letter says. "Today, consumers may buy a six-pack of beer for less than a six-pack of soda."

The religious leaders cite an estimate by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop that a tax increase of 25 cents for a can of beer or $1.47 for a bottle of wine could result in $20.6 billion in new revenue, up from the $5.7 billion collected from the current tax.

"We believe that the additional revenue could go toward paying back the government for the $23 billion spent each year on alcohol-related problems," the letter says. "Alcohol problems increase government expenditures on public health, safety and welfare. The government's alcohol tab contributes to the budget deficit, and more of the costs of the alcohol problems ought to be borne by alcohol consumers."

The letter cites an Associated Press/Media General survey that found 80% of those questioned supported higher federal taxes on alcoholic beverages to pay for expanding federal anti-drug programs.

The letter was signed by Richard Land, executive director of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission; Robert P. Dugan Jr., director of the office of public affairs for the National Assn. of Evangelicals; Melva Jimerson, acting director of the Washington office of the Church of the Brethren; Ronald J. Sider, executive director of Evangelicals for Social Action; Mary Cooper, acting director of the Washington office of the National Council of Churches; Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church; Bruce L. Olson, managing director of the Public Communications Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Donald J. Wilson, associate director of the Social Justice and Peacemaking Unit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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