Feigenholtz, Winters Push a Bi-Partisan “5¢ a Drink” Alcohol Tax to Reverse Cuts, Boost Drug, Alcohol Treatment; Mental Health Care

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois’ leading addiction prevention, treatment and mental health advocates today unveiled legislation at a Springfield press conference that increases the state’s alcohol tax by 5¢ a drink to help fund state human services and reduce drinking.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago)

The bill, HB 4557, sponsored by State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), would raise $254 million for cash-strapped Illinois and boost addiction healthcare services by $140 million and mental health care services by $92 million and the remaining $22 million would be deposited in the state’s general revenue fund—its daily checkbook.

“A nickel-a-drink increase will raise $254 million to help offset the state budget deficit and provide critical investments to addiction healthcare services,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA).

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, IADDA

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, IADDA

“Without a financial rescue, without $92 million invested in community mental health care, more than 45,000 will lose mental health services by June 30, 2010 according to our new survey,” said Frank Anselmo, CEO of the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association.

“Illinois’ chronically under funded addiction and mental health care services need dedicated money from an alcohol tax to maintain care and taxpayers need to know their money is being wisely spent,” said Feigenholtz, Chair of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee and a state budget negotiator, who noted Governor Pat Quinn’s budget cuts the programs further.

“Instead of throwing these services a lifeline, Governor Quinn’s budget throws then an anchor,” said

State Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland)

State Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland)

Feigenholtz.

The nickel-a-drink tax would be applied on wholesale alcohol by the gallon that is distributed as packaged beer, wine, or distilled spirits to stores or as beverages purchased at bars, restaurants, and hotels.

A “drink” is 12 oz of beer (bottle), 5 oz of wine (glass), and 1.5 oz of liquor (1.5 shots). Using this definition, a nickel-a-drink tax would add 30 cents per six-pack of beer, 25 cents per bottle of wine, and 85 cents per 750 ml bottle of liquor.

In addition to funding state addiction prevention, treatment and mental health services, the nickel-a-drink would reduce drinking consumption by five million gallons or 2 percent annually. The estimated drop in consumption would be up to 3.94% for beer and cider, 2.5% for wine, and 6.76% for spirits

State Rep. Naomi Jakobbson (D-Champaign)

State Rep. Naomi Jakobbson (D-Champaign)

“We will reduce the probability of accidents among adults and youth alike,” said Howe.

Howe noted alcohol abuse and drunk driving continue to exact a terrible, deadly toll on youth and children in communities throughout Illinois.

She pointed to the most recent media reports of drug and alcohol-related driving tragedies which reinforce the need for adequate addiction healthcare funding.

  • February 5 Edwardsville, IL – “A wrong-way driver whose license was yanked several times for alcohol-related offenses caused the crash early today that killed two adults and a boy and left an 11-year-old girl hospitalized.
  • February 17 Johnsburg, IL –“Police are investigating who provided alcohol to a 17-year-old Johnsburg High School student who froze to death after a minor car accident last month.
  • February 18 Elgin, IL – “The blood-alcohol level of an Elgin teen who crashed into a house last fall, killing his passenger, was nearly three times the legal limit for driving, police said…

Howe also noted an Illinois Department of Human Services study revealed that in 2006 nearly 40 percent of Illinois 12th graders had ridden in a car with a drunk or high teenager in the last year and 30 percent had the same experience with a drunk or high adult.

Illinois last raised the alcohol tax in 1999 and before that in 1969.

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago)

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago)

Joining Feigenholtz as co-sponsors of the legislation are State Representatives: Dave Winters (R-Shirland) Deborah Mell (D-Chicago),  Greg Harris (D-Chicago), Kathy Ryg (D-Vernon Hills), Esther Golar (D-Chicago), Naomi Jakobbson (D-Champaign).

Advocates are also looking to gain Governor Quinn’s support for the nickel-a-drink tax increase to reverse his initial budget cuts.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the final state budget by their scheduled May 31 adjournment.

A simple majority of lawmakers is required to pass a budget if voted on or before May 31. If after May 31, a 3/5th super-majority would be needed to approve the annual state spending plan.

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