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The Business of Booze in Maryland

Mar 02, 2011 05:13PM ● By Anonymous

First up, legislators will hear a bill on direct-to-consumer wine shipping this Friday. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin and Delegate Jolene Ivey, and sponsored by 83 delegates in the House and 32 senators in the Senate.

Passage of this bills means that we here in Maryland can finally join Wine-of-the-Month clubs, and I would FINALLY be able to purchase a bottle of Fisheye's Sauvignon Blanc for my fiance. He fell in love with this wine years ago, and then it was nowhere to be found in the Delaware/Maryland region. It is, however, available for purchase online -- but I've never been able to ship it to our state. But it means more for the wineries and retailers, who would see increased business if allowed to ship in and out of the state.

If you support this legislation, you can tell your senator/delegate through the website, Free the Grapes. I sent a note yesterday, and received a response this morning from Delegate Cathleen Vitale saying that she supported the bill. Perhaps my fiance will be able to have a glass of his favorite wine sooner rather than later.

Second is a proposed increase in tax on alcohol -- essentially, a "sin tax." I was vaguely aware of this proposal but hadn't really paid attention until we were buying a bottle of wine at our local liquor store in Gambrills and one of the cashiers started talking to us about it. First, I should say that I'm not one who overall opposes taxes -- I generally feel like taxes are necessary to support a myriad of governmental programs and procedures, and I have never really complained about paying my fair share. However, like everyone else, tax increases (especially on fun things, like alcohol) make me sigh. So, I'm not really sure where I fall on this proposal. Let's look at the details:

  • This bill has been proposed in the past, but never successful -- not for more than 50 years. Will this year be different?
  • The proposed tax increase is 10 cents per drink. "Drink" = the size of a shot.
  • This equals a hefty tax — Right now, each gallon of distilled spirits (vodka, rum, gin, etc.) are taxed at $1.50. The new tax would be $10.03. WOW. Talk about a drastic increase! Wine would go from 40 cents per gallon to $2.96, and beer tax would increase from 9 cent to $1.16 per gallon.
  • According to The Washington Examiner, "The proposed new taxes would fund $360 million in road and transit projects, $227 million for pensions, $140 million in education spending and $100 million in health care costs." Additional proposed taxes include hikes in gas and cigarette taxes.

I just don't think I can get behind such a drastic increase in taxes. It could really hurt local businesses, especially those around the edges of the state -- think how many people in our area live close to Virginia, Delaware, or even up near Pennsylvania, and could easily cross state lines to avoid paying taxes. Let's see how this plays out -- it could be an interesting battle, for sure.