August 23, 2016

Legislative panel hears arguments for liquor tax increase

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

TAOS — An advocacy group pushing for an increase in alcohol taxes in New Mexico encouraged lawmakers Tuesday to bring the issue to the upcoming special session.

De Benedittis

Andy Lyman

Peter DeBenedittis, Director of Alcohol Taxes Save Lives

Alcohol Taxes Save Lives Director Peter DeBenedittis presented his findings to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee that show many likely voters in the state are in favor of increasing taxes on alcohol by 25 cents a drink.

DeBenedittis’ group recently released a poll showing 75 percent of New Mexicans are at least somewhat in favor of an increased alcohol tax.

The poll also showed how many likely voters in New Mexico said they would cross party lines and vote for someone who supported raising the excise tax. In all, the poll found 28 percent said they are “at least somewhat likely” to do so.

DeBenedittis made his case that an increase to the state’s liquor excise tax would result in fewer people problem drinking, which would in turn help save lives. DeBenedittis encouraged lawmakers to take swift action with a summarized quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“This is no time to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” DeBenedittis said.

DeBenedittis told lawmakers the issue of a proposed tax increase on alcohol may be a factor in the upcoming election.

“I think this is going the be the number one thing people want,” DeBenedittis said.

There were few comments or questions from committee members. Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, asked how New Mexico would compare to other states if the increased tax was passed. DeBenedittis said New Mexico would be just below average, but reminded the panel of another New Mexico ranking.

“We’re also the number one for death,” DeBenedittis said, presumably referring to deaths from alcohol and not deaths overall.

DeBenedittis told NM Political Report he wants to see his proposal considered for the upcoming special session, but has been unable to arrange a meeting with the governor. Gov. Susana Martinez has continually said she is opposed to any tax increases.

DeBenedittis said he will continue to push Martinez and lawmakers to consider the tax increase.

“When the people lead, leaders follow,” DeBenedittis said.