The Pressure is on!
If City Councilor Bill Linehan and City Councilor Frank Baker have their way, a special 2 percent tax on alcohol will get passed by the City Council with a vote taking place on Wednesday.
Linehan and Baker filed a petition back in September reintroducing their proposal to fund addiction recovery efforts through a 2% tax on all alcohol sold in the City of Boston. The tax is designed to generate more than $20 million specifically for pathways to recovery with the hope of leading to an increase in the effectiveness of long-term treatment. This petition has been met with both support and opposition. It is unclear if Linehan and Baker have enough votes to approve the bill.
Back in 2015, councilors held a hearing on the proposed tax but did not formally bring the petition to council vote due to lack of support. Back in 2010, 6.25 % tax on liquor store sales by the state (Question 1) was repealed by voters with more than 50 percent of the vote.
No surprise, MA Package Stores Association and Massachusetts Restaurant Association are opposed to the new alcohol tax.
What do you think, Southie!
See press release from City Councilor Bill Linehan’s office:
On December 14, 2016, Councilor Linehan and co-sponsor Councilor Baker will pull docket #0157, an order for a Home Rule Petition to create a tax on the sale of alcohol on and off premise at 2% of the sale price. These funds would be directed specifically for addiction and substance abuse programs and services targeting the areas of prevention, intervention and treatment. An estimated $20,000,000 could be generated from this levy. Addiction and substance abuse services are sorely underfunded and everyday the axe falls that cuts funding even further. The crisis grows while resources shrink, therefore the Boston City Council is perched to lead in the challenge to fight addiction and its impacts on the City of Boston,
The impacts of addiction permeates throughout many services delivery efforts. Departments such as the Police, Fire, Health Commission, Schools, Courts and hospitals are all burdened by the impacts of addiction and substance abuse. One addict can activate a response from all of the above mentioned delivery systems; in Boston, the total costs related to these services is tens of millions of dollars each year. Alcohol related abuse is cause for more than 50% of the service delivery target at substance abuse which is more than all other substances combined.
The personal toll to the addicted is just one facet of addiction. Young people miss school and suffer academically with such impacts in their home. Police are burdened with breaking and entering, shoplifting, and the organized crime associated with the sale of illicit drugs and the violence associated with the abuse of alcohol. Fire and EMS respond to an ever growing load of calls for emergencies related to addiction and substance abuse including overdoses and deaths. Hospital emergency rooms are the place where the injured and ill seek treatment. Our courts and jails are overburden with this one public policy nightmare. Additionally, if we effectively treat addiction and its impacts will be felt across the board, homeless shelters will dwindle in size and residents will become productive citizens.
This is an extremely progressive tax, that creates resources to fight addiction in the City of Boston. The cost savings clearly outweighs the cost of the levy. It is virtually an investment in efficiency and effectiveness.
When a couple goes to dinner in Boston they might spend $125 on dinner and drinks with meals tax and gratuity included; $35 of the bill is alcohol, then add the 2% and the cost is $125.70. The extra 2% tax we pay is not as significant as the lives we can save and change. There is no sales tax specifically for alcohol in Massachusetts. The repeal of the tax in 2010 was overwhelmingly defeated in Boston (65% to 35%). Alcohol excise tax in Massachusetts ranks 33rd in US.
The initiatives supported by this tax will include; recovery outreach workers deployed on the streets of Boston, 24/7 and available at all times to help assist in placement of individuals needing treatment, investment in technology to help coordinate resources, court, detox, emergency rooms, available beds,counciling etc.. Millions for housing at long term stay facilities proven successful in the fight against addiction. Gap funding for locally-certified LICSW, LADC-1 therapists, to address the shortage due to short falls in insurance restrictions, prevention programs funding where resources have dried up completely.
Eight members of the Boston delegation at the State House have signed a letter supporting this the Home Rule Petition. In addition, the UniteHere Local 26 hotel workers union has also written a letter of support. Letters are attached.
Councilors Linehan and Baker will be available for press inquires at 10:00 AM for approximately 45 minutes in the Piemonte Room on the fifth floor of City Hall tomorrow December 14,2016 before the Council Meeting at noon.