If you can say one thing about the Anchorage Assembly you can say this: It will never give up trying to get into your pocket as long as you have one penny left.
Take, for instance, its putting onto the ballot in the upcoming April 2 election a proposed 5 percent retail alcohol sales tax and promising Anchorage bars they would be allowed to open earlier – something bar owners have wanted for years – if they did not oppose the levy.
There have been seven failed attempts to tax alcohol in Anchorage over the past few decades. This time around, Assemblyman Dick Traini decided to muscle the liquor industry.
He proposed linking the tax and the extended hours; said it was just a tradeoff.
“It’s quite simple: Don’t fight against this, and you can have bar hours increased,” the Anchorage Daily News reports Traini as saying. “Defeat the alcohol tax, and this disappears like this never happened.”
A tradeoff? It sounds more like crass government extortion. Welcome to the Third World.
In return for its silence, the liquor industry could serve alcohol at 9 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends and state holidays. The law now calls for 10 a.m. bar openings. State law already allows serving from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning.
Let’s face reality: Common sense says longer bar hours mean more drinking. Add to that the fact that liquor taxes have little-to-no effect on drinking.
Alaska is a good example. It already has among the nation’s highest liquor taxes and has had since lawmakers in 2002 decided that jacking up liquor taxes would dissuade Alaskans from drinking and help pay for alcohol’s added costs to the state. Surprise! The tax had the opposite effect. Drinking actually increased – but the state struck revenue gold.
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz wants the 5 percent retail sales tax on alcohol to fund homeless services and substance abuse treatment. The promise is that the revenue would be dedicated to just those areas.
Despite Berkowitz’s vow to sock the money into a fund for homelessness and treatment means squat. The next mayor or the one after that would spend the money as he or she would see fit.
The tax proposal is a lousy idea, just another way to get into our pockets, to hold one industry responsible for problems ranging from mental illness to alcoholism.
Voters should reject it, if for no other reason, the coercion and extortion involved.