Kansas lawmakers Wednesday tabled a proposal to raise a wholesale tax on alcohol to help fund mental health programs and services for disabled Kansans.
It’s the latest tax measure to falter in the Legislature as lawmakers look for ways to close a budget deficit pegged at $467 million.
The proposed liquor tax hike would have added a few pennies to the cost of beer, wine and spirits. It would raise an estimated $21.8 million, which would be split evenly between mental health programs and services for the developmentally disabled.
Lawmakers on the House Tax Committee balked Wednesday, voting to table the measure indefinitely. It’s possible the idea could resurface at a later time.
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Rep. Kay Wolf, a Prairie Village Republican, is the sponsor of the bill. She noted the programs for the disabled and mentally ill serve the state’s most vulnerable citizens and have had to absorb deep budget cuts.
“Mental health was cut $20 million since 2007,” Wolf said. “ I believe this population is one we need to help almost more than anyone. Without us, I don’t think there is much help for them.”
But other lawmakers on the committee said they feared a higher liquor tax could hurt bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
Others noted the money could be redirected by legislative budget committees to fund other programs.
“It’s highly unlikely this money is going to get where it’s supposed to go,” said Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican. “we’re going to end up with a tax increase that’s not going to do what it was intended to do.”
The current tax rate is 18 cents per gallon of beer, 30 cents per gallon of wine and $2.50 per gallon of alcohol. The tax hasn’t been raised in 30 years.