Big Alcohol Fights Against Local Alcohol Tax
Corporate lobbying onslaught
The Big Alcohol giants behind Budweiser, Miller and Guinness have poured tens of thousands of dollars of advertising money into a campaign to defeat a local Anchorage alcohol tax, new financial disclosure reports show.
In a matter of weeks, a mix of national, regional and local alcohol businesses have mobilized to raise $288,000 to defeat the tax, according to the most recent disclosures. The money has been largely spent so far on radio and TV ads, direct mail and canvassing. Less than half had been spent as of Thursday, leaving ammo for a last-minute campaign before voting ends Tuesday evening.
Big Alcohol lobbies against funding for treatment services
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz proposed a 5% alcohol retail sales tax this past fall as a way to pay for homelessness services, treatment for substance use disorders, and public safety at a time of declining state support. The money would be legally restricted to those causes, according to the text of the measure.
AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer that owns Budweiser and various other beer brands, donated about $24,000 to the campaign against the local alcohol tax, records show. Other Big Alcohol multinational corporations include MillerCoors and Diageo, the second largest liquor maker in the world that owns brands like Guinness and Smirnoff. A California-based advocacy group for the California Wine Industry gave $20,000. Various regional and local distributors, industry groups and breweries also pitched in, records show.
Big Alcohol fears local alcohol policy for potential “ripple effects”
Big companies are watching what happens in Anchorage because of concerns about a “ripple effect” throughout the state, said Sarah Oates, the campaign chair and executive director of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association. She said retailers were worried both about additional taxes in other places, and about a general financial impact.
Anchorage would become one of 11 other communities in Alaska with a local alcohol tax.
The campaign for increasing the local alcohol tax, Yes for a Safer Anchorage, has raised a fraction of what the alcohol industry has put up, records show. Supporters of the tax include Anchorage’s police and fire unions, individual donors, and Recover Alaska, a nonprofit organization that works to fight alcohol-related problems.
The boards of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. both have voted to support the tax.
Proponents of the tax say the added income would help the city expand treatment and efforts to move people off the street while also helping heavy alcohol users and young people to consume less alcohol.
Alcohol taxes are good for public health and local economies. In fact, increasing taxes on alcohol is one of the most cost-effective methods of reducing the harms caused by alcohol consumption, https://t.co/2wJfMQ3fOP
— CAMY JHU (@CAMYJHU) April 1, 2019
Elections results show Big Alcohol interests prevailed
Anchorage voters have rejected the local alcohol tax that was pitched as a way to raise money to tackle homelessness, substance abuse and illegal camp clean-ups. Election results show, 52% of voters had voted against the tax proposition.
The local alcohol tax would have amounted to $0.40 for a six-pack of beer, $0.50 for a $10 mixed drink and $1.75 for a $35 bottle of wine and $2.50 for a $50 bottle of liquor. City officials said the tax would raise $13 million each year at a time of declining state support.
With a narrow margin of defeat – despite the aggressive onslaught and spending of Big Alcohol, the city’s Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who proposed the tax, said he was hopeful the results would change with more votes being counted but that it was a “long shot.
Anchorage Daily News reports that the local alcohol tax faced an aggressive and well-funded opposition campaign from Big Alcohol.