Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — With an interim legislative committee planning to study Wyoming's beer and liquor tax, some residents of Fremont County are advocating for a beer tax increase to raise money for substance abuse treatment.
Wyoming's 2-cents-per-gallon tax on malt beverages is the lowest in the nation. It has remained unchanged since it was first passed in 1935, about a year after Prohibition was repealed.
The study is among several tax studies assigned to the Joint Interim Revenue Committee this summer and fall.
Nancy Eckstein, vice president of the Riverton Community Food Bank, has been contacting committee members and other lawmakers about possibly raising the beer tax.
She tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/12XAVtL ) that she has been trying for two years to get the tax raised to help fund substance abuse treatment programs like those offered at the Alcohol Crisis Center in Riverton.
State Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, is a member of the Joint Interim Revenue Committee and is executive director of Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing.
Alcohol abuse is a problem among the American Indian population on the reservation, Goggles said, and the Riverton center needs a steady revenue stream.
But Goggles said a beer tax increase hasn't been a priority for legislators.
"The political reality is it doesn't have much support," he added.
Goggles said he has sponsored bills to allow a local optional tax on alcohol but they haven't got through the Legislature because of opposition from liquor and restaurant interests.
Rep. Rita Campbell, R-Shoshoni, said she had a beer tax bill drafted for the session that ended earlier this month but didn't introduce it because she didn't believe it would receive support.
"I didn't feel that it would go, and we have such a strong liquor lobbyist who is definitely not for it," Campbell said.
Opponents of a higher tax on beer contend it would generate little revenue compared to the ill will it would provoke among beer drinkers. They also argue the tax should be kept low because beer is a blue-collar beverage.
The beer tax raises $265,000 a year for the state's general fund, according to the Wyoming Liquor Division. The agency says raising the tax to 5 cents a gallon would generate $668,000 per year.
David Jernigan is a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University who has studied the alcohol business for decades.
He said it is difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes on any alcohol product, but it has been done in recent years in Illinois and Maryland.