I try to keep most politics out of the blog, but occasionally there are things that directly affect not just our friends in the wine industry, but those of us buying the wine.
We all enjoy buying wine in Kentucky, as the prices certainly can't be beat. Well, HB 166 proposes raising the liquor tax by 6%, to an overall total of 17%. A distributor told me today that right now, before this tax increase, we are already paying 53% in taxes – whether on a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer. 53% ! That's crazy! In fact, it's one of the highest in the nation. So imagine adding another 6% on to that. In order to make money, our favorite retailers are going to have to raise prices.
Take that one step further – a tax increase like this is going to greatly hurt all of our favorite retailers here in Northern Kentucky. Border stores, like those here and in Louisville, will feel the pain of having to raise prices. It's bad enough that everyone is being forced to raise prices here and there because the dollar is bad and imports are now more expensive. Now we're going force them to raise prices from within the state?
I've long known Kentucky's wine and liquor laws were a bit backwards and, in many cases, appear to be left over from Prohibition. Heaven knows, it's next to impossible to ship anything in or out of this state. This is just one more example of hurting ourselves and employing the 1930s-era mentality of taxing the sinners.
Let's look at coal for a minute. We don't mine coal here in Northern Ky, but we don't see the money from the coal taxes either. About half of the money from coal taxes stay in the counties that mine the coal. Do the work, reap the benefits. Representative Steve Riggs believes it should work this way with alcohol taxes as well. Last year, alcohol taxes provided $115 million in state revenue. Riggs has proposed an amendment to HB 166 that keeps the money from the tax increase in the wet counties. After all, if HB 166 passes – without the amendment – then those dry counties reap the benefits from the money we're all spending.
Of course, ideally, the bill won't pass at all. Maybe the dry counties will be so upset by the amendment that they'll vote against the bill. My fear is that they'll get rid of the amendment, pass the bill, and the dry counties will reap the benefits of my – and your – dollars. We don't want the bill to pass in any form.
There are so many other ways to raise money other than taxing something that is a) already overtaxed, b) brings in business from neighboring states, and c) singles out certain people within the state.
Hey, I know! Why don't we build a casino in one of the buildings Columbia Sussex has bought, waiting for a casino. We're constantly losing that money to Indiana. Instead of continuing to tax the rest of us, how about finally passing a casino bill and making money that way.
I'm not really cheering on 59% in taxes on a bottle of $14 wine.
Feel free to write our local congressmen. Happily you can just send them an email – I did. You can also view the letter from Liquor Direct's Kevin Keith. Finally, you can just call our legislature at 1-800-372-7181. My own letter is after the jump.
Here is the email I sent to all of the above (who represent Kenton, Boone, and Campbell counties). Feel free to improve upon it and change it (obviously) for your own purposes, but please, send a quick email expressing your displeasure.
Note: I received a positive and personal response almost immediately from Rep. Webb-Edgington.
Dear Representative [NAME]:
I'm writing in regards to HB 166. We already pay 53% in taxes on each individual bottle of wine. Our current taxes go to help those across the state, despite our unique dry/wet county setup. I run a high traffic regional wine blog and have done my best to make sure my readers know about this additional 6% tax that has been proposed. (Read here: http://www.wine-girl.net/2009/02/taxing-the-sinners-hb-166.html)
I feel like we're not only being punished for choosing to drink – but that we're forced to carry the rest of the state as well. Is the $115 million in current alcohol tax revenue (per the Cincinnati Enquirer) not enough?
In a time where many people are cutting back on things they love, including those of us who collect wine, it's as if this legislation is seeking to further hurt the retailers. Those on state borders will lose customers back to Ohio or Indiana, and those of us in the state will buy even less. The retailers are already hurting in this economy. Why make it worse?
So, isn't there another way?
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