Alabama Lawmakers Consider Reforming State Liquor Mark-ups


In recent years, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has become notorious for trying to sneak through increased mark-ups on booze in the state. As R Street's Cameron Smith exposed last year, Alabama ABC attempted to institute a 5% increase in booze mark-ups to provide more funding for state district attorneys. Using liquor mark-ups in this way essentially turns the mark-ups into a stealth tax on state residents, and R Street has called out this behavior by state liquor regulators in the past (our policy report on the issue can be found here).

Luckily, some lawmakers in Alabama are now trying to fix this system of unaccountable taxation by introducing a bill that would require any increase in the state liquor mark-up to be approved by the state legislature. Cameron Smith recently wrote another column for about this much-needed attempt to inject accountability into the process:

"If Alabama's legislators want to raise taxes, they should cast a vote to do so. They shouldn't be able to cut a deal between public employees and the state's liquor bureaucracy to avoid accountability at the ballot box. Sadly, that's exactly what happened in 2017, and State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw's SB120 aims to stop it...

SB120 simply prevents future ABC markups without a bill enacted by the Alabama Legislature. It's not a complicated bill, but it absolutely restores accountability for revenue policy decisions to the people Alabamians actually elect.

Alabama is in the minority of states retaining a 'control' model for liquor. Apparently the state's 'conservative' legislature would rather preserve a prohibition-era bureaucracy than fund the DAs properly, meet other spending needs or simply let Alabamians keep a little more of their hard-earned money.

But this is an election year. Hope for any real changes to Alabama's liquor control system is little more than wishful thinking. Maybe the Alabama Legislature will at least take responsibility for the taxes we pay on alcohol..."

Read the whole column here.