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Think alcohol tax can finance health care? Think again. | READER COMMENTARY

Hundreds of people rallied outside the Maryland State House in February of last year on behalf of the Maryland Mental Health Coalition in support of efforts to raise the state alcohol tax to prevent reductions in services to people with mental illness.
Hundreds of people rallied outside the Maryland State House in February of last year on behalf of the Maryland Mental Health Coalition in support of efforts to raise the state alcohol tax to prevent reductions in services to people with mental illness. (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

So health care advocates want to raise Maryland’s alcohol tax again (“Hike could help address state’s health inequities,” Sept. 29). Here’s a word of caution.

In 2011, I was part of the health and disability coalition that convinced the General Assembly, with the support of then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, to increase the state alcohol tax from 6% to 9%. Mental health services were to receive 15% of the proceeds each year. So were addiction services. As it turned out, neither got a dime because in the session’s last days, legislative leaders rewrote the bill to dedicate almost all of the new revenue to school construction.

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The sponsors say that some of the proceeds this time will go to “expand mental health and substance use disorder treatment programs — which are critically underfunded today.” Fool me once...

Herb Cromwell, Catonsville

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The writer is the retired executive director of the Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland.

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