""We... want... more... BEER!"" This infamous chant heard at every Badger football game sums up Wisconsin weekends pretty well. But are already cash-strapped college students going to want to chant for more foamy beverages if the price for our gameday ""water"" is significantly higher than the current rates?
Wisconsin has always been famous for its drinking culture. No matter where you are, everyone knows that Wisconsinites cherish their beer and pride themselves on their unique ability to drink it. One thing Wisconsin should not be proud of, however, is its unique ability to impose sky-high taxes on its residents. State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, does not agree and seems to think beer and taxes are the perfect union. Her recently proposed beer-tax legislation may have good intentions in combating alcohol abuse, but its end result will be the same as any other tax—more money for lawmakers, less money for you.
The proposed beer-tax increase, the first of its kind in 40 years if it passes, would change the tax from $2 per barrel to $10 per barrel, or roughly 2.5 cents per bottle of beer. Knowing the amount of beer Wisconsin sells every year, an extra $8 would add up quickly. The revenue collected from this proposed tax would ideally be used for better alcohol abuse treatment programs and law enforcement efforts to combat drunken driving.
Wisconsin has an undisputed reputation for its binge drinking and also has one of the nation's highest levels of drunken driving fatalities, so it seems logical that lawmakers would put energy into programs to reverse this long-standing trend. In a perfect world this tax would have the capabilities to end drunken driving, cut down on alcohol abuse and even reduce health-care costs by reducing the number of alcohol-related diseases and injuries.
Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world, which was best demonstrated by the recent increase in the cigarette tax. This past summer the price of cigarettes increased $0.75 per pack, following last year's $1.00-per-pack increase. The revenue collected from this tax was supposed to fund quit smoking help lines and addiction programs. Why, then, has there been a 55% cut in funding to state antismoking programming? Because of the irresponsible spending of Gov. Doyle and Democratic leadership, that's why. Following a trend that has been frequent during Doyle's tenure, the money was raided from that account to pay for other services. The beer tax is an honorable effort by Rep. Berceau—everyone wishes to see drunken driving-related deaths fall.
However, Doyle and his administration have continued to shift money from one state agency to the next to try to fund all the massive government spending they have created and now cannot pay for.
Who's to say that this tax is going to actually fund the programs the lawmakers say it will? This tax won't dent my weekend budget that severely, but at the same time, why should I be paying it in the first place? These are questions we as voters need to be asking our legislators.
This isn't the only tax college students may face as we graduate and enter the real world. Doyle and state Democrats are proposing to spend $3.64 billion more in the new budget, passed in June of this year, which represents a 6.2 percent increase in spending over the base budget and a total of $62.24 billion in 2009-2011. To offset this, Doyle is taxing everything from phone calls to hospital stays. In addition, property taxes that are reflected in our student housing aren't statements are increasing 3.3 to 4.1 percent because of Doyle. We need to draw the line when it comes to taxing and spending. Democrats and lawmakers like Doyle cannot continue to raid other state funds to pay for mismanaged ones.
It is unfortunate that lawmakers have resorted to raising taxes on the last few fun things college students can still afford. It's not just beer. Have you heard about the new digital downloadable media taxes that started Oct. 1? Probably not. Wisconsin can't seem to curb its spending habits, even in the current economic climate, and seems to be punishing students for its fiscal irresponsibility.
Emily Monske is a senior and the first vice chair for the UW-College Republicans. We welcome all feedback. Please send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.