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Gulfport mayor pushes penny tax on alcohol

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — A pint of beer, a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey could cost you a penny more in the future.

At least that is what Gulfport Mayor Michael Yakes hopes will happen if the state Legislature adopts his proposal for a 1-cent tax on alcohol served in bars and restaurants.

The tax would benefit small and midsized community police departments as well as alcohol-related programs and services offered at the county and state level, he said.

Yakes took his idea to the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission last week and plans to visit the Treasure Island City Commission on Tuesday.

"I have been looking at this idea for three years," Yakes said Friday.

He said the declining economy is pressuring law enforcement services, citing expected losses of probation officers and services offered by organizations like PAR.

"This is a good penny because it would be an investment in our public defenders, state attorney offices, alcohol-related programs, local police and the Sheriff's Office," Yakes told Indian Rocks Beach commissioners.

He asked the city officials to consider signing a letter supporting his alcohol penny tax proposal.

Mayor R.B. Johnson said his commission would consider Yakes' proposal at a future workshop.

Yakes said he proposed the alcohol penny tax to the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation last month and is hoping one of the state legislators will decide to sponsor the bill.

"The tax is a potential new revenue stream that could improve how our courts, communities and law enforcement deal with persons and families who are directly affected by the misuse of alcohol," Yakes said in a letter to the Legislative Delegation.

"No one has come out and endorsed the bill yet, but I think it is coming," Yakes said.

He says he has received support from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, local police unions and even from officials in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

"People are speaking about the penny," Yakes said. "Alcohol abuse is about more than a DUI. It could be drunk and disorderly, spouse abuse or domestic quarrels. All of the effects come back through our court systems."

Yakes' idea is for alcohol to be taxed at the distributor level.

Each 16 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of liquor would be taxed a penny. Presumably that cost would be passed on to the alcohol drinker.

Yakes said that based on 2007 sales records, the penny alcohol tax on beer alone would raise $1.4-million in just Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, he said.

The proceeds of the tax would be distributed primarily to communities of fewer than 35,000 residents to support their local police departments and alcohol-related programs, he said.

Gulfport mayor pushes penny tax on alcohol 01/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 3:31am]
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