LANSING, MICH. - Legislation that would more than double the state’s beer tax is already coming under fire from a conservative organization, which says the spike would be devastating to Michigan’s craft beer industry.
State Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, wants to increase the tax per barrel of beer from $6.30 to $21.70, with most of the money used to fight substance abuse.
The Michigan Freedom Fund is finding it hard to swallow.
“What’s Tom Hooker drinking?’’ the anti-tax group asks in a news release. “Hooker’s bill is bad for the state’s craft brewing industry, bad for Michigan residents and devastating for his home district – Beer City USA.’’
The tax hike equates to an extra five cents per can of beer. Proceeds would fund substance abuse courts, substance abuse programs, education and enforcement, according to the eight-page bill.
Hooker concedes he’s facing an uphill battle, particularly from those connected with restaurants and brew pubs. His staunch opposition to tax hikes will also come under scrutiny, Hooker said.
“It’s totally out of character for me but it is in character for me after seeing the effects of underage drinking and binge drinking,’’ Hooker said. “And it’s appropriate for those drinking a large amount of beer to pay for the recovery and all of the things that come as a result of over-drinking.’’
Hooker, a former Byron Center High School teacher, says he has seen the impact of excessive drinking first-hand, both in the schools and in his personal life.
“My mom grew up in an orphanage because of the results of alcohol,’’ he said. “As a former teacher, I’ve also seen a lot of damage.’’
The conservative teetotaler says Michigan’s beer tax has remained unchanged since 1966. If approved, the measure should generate about $60 million a year, he said.
“The new funds would be for recovery services, enforcement, counseling – all those things needed to combat excessive drinking,’’ Hooker said.
The bill directs 60 percent of proceeds to the Department of Health and Human Services for substance use disorder treatment and rehabilitation services.
Smaller amounts would go to Michigan State Police for enforcement of underage drinking and drunk driving laws while veterans and their families would receive funding for prevention, treatment and recovery.
"The last thing Michigan needs is another lawmaker drunk on tax hikes and government spending,’’ the Michigan Freedom Fund said in its news release. “Let’s hope Lansing puts this terrible bill on ice.’’
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.
(© 2016 WZZM)