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County residents in thick of talks to raise beer tax

Mar 19, 2013 The Associated Press

With an interim legislative committee planning to study Wyoming's beer and liquor tax, some residents of Fremont County are advocating for a beer tax increase to raise money for substance abuse treatment.

Wyoming's 2-cents-per-gallon tax on malt beverages is the lowest in the nation. It has remained unchanged since it was first passed in 1935, about a year after Prohibition was repealed.

The study is among several tax studies assigned to the Joint Interim Revenue Committee this summer and fall.

Nancy Eckstein, vice president of the Riverton Community Food Bank, has been contacting committee members and other lawmakers about possibly raising the beer tax.

She she has been trying for two years to get the tax raised to help fund substance abuse treatment programs like those offered at the Alcohol Crisis Center in Riverton.

State Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, is a member of the Joint Interim Revenue Committee and is executive director of Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing.

Alcohol abuse is a problem among the American Indian population on the reservation, Goggles said, and the Riverton center needs a steady revenue stream.

But Goggles said a beer tax increase hasn't been a priority for legislators.

"The political reality is it doesn't have much support," he added.

Goggles said he has sponsored bills to allow a local optional tax on alcohol but they haven't got through the Legislature because of opposition from liquor and restaurant interests.

Rep. Rita Campbell, R-Shoshoni, said she had a beer tax bill drafted for the session that ended earlier this month but didn't introduce it because she didn't believe it would receive support.

"I didn't feel that it would go, and we have such a strong liquor lobbyist who is definitely not for it," Campbell said.

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