City Council President Bill Linehan recently introduced a Home Rule Petition that would implement a 6.25% tax on “off premise” alcohol purchases within the City of Boston. A hearing was held on April 7th in the Boston City Council’s Iannella Chamber regarding this proposal. If passed, this proposal would raise approximately $9 to $15 million to support addiction prevention and recovery programs in Boston.
In 2010 a referendum known as Question 1 suspended the statewide 6.25% tax on “off premise” alcohol, passing by a 52% to 48% margin, however within the city of Boston voters overwhelmingly opposed eliminating the tax, by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. Question 1’s passage resulted in the loss of approximately $93 million in yearly revenue for state prevention and recovery programs. This loss of funding has come at a time when the need for treatment services remains high.
Recently Governor Patrick declared a public health emergency regarding opiate addiction in Massachusetts, committing additional resources to the problem and banning the new powerful painkiller Zohydro in the commonwealth until measures are taken to prevent abuse. Opiate overdoses in Massachusetts have risen 90% over the last decade. The majority of people who seek detox services identify alcohol as the first substance they abused, most at a young age.
“We need to find a way to close gaps in recovery services. I’ve heard from families who have struggled to get their loved ones the treatment they need because of a lack of detox beds. I’ve heard from treatment providers that are unable to provide post detox care because of lost funding. We’re talking about an extra dollar on a twelve pack of beer. Given the extraordinary need for recovery services in our communities, I believe this makes sense,” said Council President Bill Linehan.
At the hearing alcohol retailers felt they were being targeted unfairly to resolve this serious problem. They felt the burden needs to be shared with others in the economy. Councilor Linehan listened to their concerns and will work with the Council to take their issues into consideration.