SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico has the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths in the country with 34 deaths per 100,000 people. The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee want to reduce alcohol deaths by raising taxes on booze.
Lawmakers said this is not about raising taxes on New Mexicans; they want to make the state healthier. However, one counselor who works with alcohol-addicted patients believes a tax increase won’t help.
“I’ve tried helping people in many different ways but until they come to terms with their addiction or their dependency nothing happens,” said the owner of Aliviar Counseling Services, Carl Regensberg.
Lawmakers want to raise taxes on alcohol, hoping fewer people will want to buy it.
“We can’t mandate a price but what we can do is raise the taxes to make it less attractive to young people. People are saying ‘alcoholics are not going to stop drinking,'” said Rep. Elizabeth Thomson, D-Bernalillo. “That’s not why I’m behind it. I agree with that but if we can keep kids from particularly binge drinking or drinking at all.”
Currently, taxes in the state are seven cents for a glass of wine and four cents for a beer. However, one Representative said instead of doing a flat tax, the state should do a percentage.
“When you do that you have to raise it with inflation every decade or two and I don’t think it’s been raised for 3 or 4 decades. When you put a percentage tax you don’t have to raise it every 10 to 20 years because it rises along with inflation,” said Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Bernalillo.
Representatives say the extra money could help fund treatment centers. “This is one of the most preventative measures we can take but we need to look at other things that we can do to take whatever tax increase or tax totally and put it into programs that will help with the prevention,” said Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Doña Ana.
New Mexico’s alcohol taxes make about $50 million a year. In 2017, New Mexico tried to raise alcohol taxes by a quarter per drink.
Lawmakers are still working out how much they will add to the alcohol tax. The bill hasn’t been written yet; it’s just in the discussion phase. However, representatives say it is a top priority for 2023.
Representatives will be meeting Thursday afternoon and Friday morning to discuss the alcohol tax increase. Those meetings will be online.