Utah boosts beer tax

Utah legislators have approved a beer tax increase the goes into effect May 1. The tax on beer will increase from $11 to $12.80 per barrel, down from the $14 increase originally contemplated. Some of the revenue from beer sales and increased license fees will go to combat overconsumption and underage drinking.

Lawmakers also pushed forward the tax hike’s effective date two months to May 1. The early start will help generate revenue needed to balance the 2003-04 general fund, where most of the new tax money will go, in addition to building up the fund for law enforcement.

Arguments against the beer-tax increase focused on the fact that the existing $11 per barrel tax already raises more money than previous legislatures had targeted to help local governments fight DUI cases, and even then, lawmakers have raided those funds repeatedly to cover general expenses.

Because the revenue ends up being used for such broad purposes, Rep. Scott Daniels, D-Salt Lake City, argued it was unfair “to take a narrow segment of the population who are quite politically powerless — the people who drink beer.” And Rep. Gregory Hughes, R-Draper, said that philosophically singling out one commodity was like the “unjust taxation” disputes that triggered the Boston Tea Party.

Responded Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George: “If you drink too much tea you get hyper and have go to the bathroom. If you drink too much beer you have problems.”

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