When the General Assembly increased the state's alcohol tax last year for the first time in decades, proponents fought to have the proceeds directed to health programs. They didn't get their wish the first year, when most of the money went for school construction, but this appears to be their year.
Gov.Martin O'Malleyhas proposed $64 million in health programs this year that his administration has identified as having been funded by the alcohol tax. Last year, only $15 million went for such programs -- all directed to developmental disabilities.
This year the governor is proposing $27.3 million in spending on disabilities, $18.4 million for community health services, $14.3 million for long-term care outside of institutions and $4 million for reducing health disparities through community-based care.
The Lorraine Sheehan Alcohol Tax Coalition, which pushed for passage of last year's bill, returned to Annapolis Tuesday for a news conference at which State Health Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein announced the spending plan.
Vinny DeMarco, the chief advocate for the increase, said this year's budget actions show the coalition made the right decision in agreeing to the diversion to school construction last year. "This validates our decision last year to go along with this," said DeMarco, who heads the advocacy group Health Care for All.
Particularly important, said DeMarco, is the $7.4 million slated to go toward primary adult health care, a program that helps low-income adults who don't have children.