Alcohol tax not much help to disabled

While Brian Cox of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council is tempted to praise the General Assembly for increasing alcohol taxes ("State's alcohol tax will help people with disabilities," April 14), looking at how poorly the state's policymakers treated people with disabilities should cause him to reconsider.

The priorities of legislators and the governor are clear and people with disabilities don't rank high on their list. In the first year of the new tax rate, less than a fifth of the new revenue from the alcohol tax hike goes to fund disability services. After that, none of the funding is earmarked to help people with disabilities.

In a year when the state found $6 million to subsidize thoroughbred racing and approved $75 million for the governor's new corporate welfare fund, policymakers could have easily found money to boost services for people with disabilities without raising the alcohol tax. Instead, legislators and lobbyists decided to push for an alcohol tax hike under the pretext of helping people with disabilities.

When Senate Republicans called them on their cynical posturing by introducing an amendment ensuring all the alcohol tax hike money would go to fund disability and mental health services, not a word of support was heard from the disability community nor did they condemn the Democrats who voted against the amendment.

This alcohol tax hike was promoted as a way of helping people with disabilities because its backers know this is a popular cause. The disability community should be condemning legislators who used them as cover to enact a tax hike that will bring in a lot of new revenue, very little of which will go to disability services.

Marc Kilmer, Salisbury

The writer is a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

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