SB 61 was submitted to the South Dakota legislature during the session which just ended in order to add a tax to wholesale alcohol sales. The intent was to raise money to pay for law enforcement, legal proceedings and treatment for problems that come from alcohol abuse.
As was illustrated by the spending battle over the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s budget, money is scarce in a state which is trying to maximize government services and minimize the tax burden to the average citizen.
However, supporters of the bill asked that it be removed from the legislative agenda because they didn’t believe it could make it through the legislature. Whether it would fall victim to the alcohol lobby, or to a reluctance to vote for a new tax in an election year, it’s chances were slim.
So the tax proposal has been submitted to the Secretary of State as a petition, and signatures are being sought to get it on the ballot in November.
Being a conservative, there aren’t many taxes I support. For the most part, taxes sap the economic vitality of a society and take away the hard-earned dollars of the taxpayers. All too often, government isn’t frugal with the money taken from the taxpayers. Sometimes money is wasted, and sometimes it is spent on things that should be taken care of in the private sector.
Still, there are a few legitimate functions of government that the private sector isn’t properly empowered to handle. Those include defense, building and maintaining roads, emergency response and law enforcement.
While we should always be alert for opportunities to reduce spending, public safety is one area we shouldn’t short change.
It is for that reason that I support the proposed alcohol tax.
I wrote a column on why I support the tax, focused primarily on the tremendous legal cost to our society brought on by alcohol abuse, and the Rapid City Weekly News published it this week.
You might not be aware, but the cost in crime, property damage, court costs, and fatalities is considerable–read my column to find out out considerable. I think it’s reasonable that a substance which, when used improperly, can lead to such cost to society should bear some of responsibility for paying the bill.