Hogan proposes increased alcohol tax

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(Host) Independent gubernatorial candidate Con Hogan has proposed raising the state tax on alcohol to help pay for health care programs. Hogan says he hopes the tax increase will also encourage Vermonters to consume less alcohol.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) If spiraling health care costs are ever to come under control, Vermonters must take additional steps to main good health and one of the most important steps is to drink less alcohol. That’s the assessment by Independent Gubernatorial candidate Con Hogan.

Hogan released a health care proposal on Monday that calls for a streamlining of the Vermont’s health care bureaucracy – a move Hogan says can save the state $250 million over the next seven years. That’s money Hogan says can be used to help provide health care coverage to some of the 50,000 Vermonters who don’t have insurance.

Hogan also wants to encourage the promotion of preventative health care measures. He says he supports an increase in Vermont’s alcohol tax because studies indicate that 40% of all deaths in the state are related to alcohol abuse:

(Hogan) “Politically, dealing with alcohol has been a much bigger problem. You know the state of Vermont is still in the business. We got out of the retail business, but we’re still in the wholesale business. We ought to get out of that. Okay, we ought to regulate the devil out of it, but we ought to get out of it. We ought to maybe go and take a look at some modest increases in the alcohol tax to test that. See what happens, see what happens to behavior. We really have to get involved in all of these things if we’re going to really make a change in the outcomes for health care and particularly the cost.”

(Kinzel) Two of Hogan’s major opponents disagree with his plan. Republican candidate Jim Douglas says it won’t raise much money and could send more consumers to Hew Hampshire:

(Douglas) “So in order to make a significant dent in the $2.2 billion health care budget of our state, it would have to be an increase of extraordinary proportions. We have a serious problem with the river towns on the eastern side of Vermont. Many Vermonters are going to New Hampshire to buy groceries and Powerball tickets. An increase in the liquor taxes would exacerbate that loss of retail business on the eastern side of our state.”

(Kinzel) Democrat Doug Racine also expressed his opposition to the plan:

(Racine) “I’m not ready to endorse that yet. I think we’ve got a lot of good work that we can do based on studies of what’s happening in state government like with drug abuse programs. So before I contemplate any sort of tax increase I’m going to be looking for how we can get more out of existing programs.”

(Kinzel) Hogan also wants to modify the state’s community rating system to encourage more private health insurance companies to do business in Vermont.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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