Alcohol may become even more expensive
Originally published in The Tartan on 10.08.2007. Visit www.thetartan.org.
Written with input from the editorial board of The Tartan.
Pennsylvania's Quaker roots have always made purchasing alcohol a chore. There is no alcohol in grocery stores, beer and liquor are sold in separate stores, and the taxes on alcohol are among the highest in the world. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board subjects alcohol to a 30 percent markup tax, a $1.30 bottle charge, an 18 percent Johnstown flood tax, a "round up" tax, and a 7 percent state sales tax.

Now, Dan Onorato is proposing an additional alcohol tax — a 10 percent poured alcohol tax — throughout Allegheny County in an effort to make up for the deficit affecting Pittsburgh's public transit. His proposal would yield between $35 and $50 million, which covers the amount needed to keep state funding for public transportation several times over.

The price of the new poured alcohol tax would essentially be a double-whammy for students, but it confuses the supply/demand audience outside of campus as well: The people who are purchasing poured drinks are not the same people riding the buses. The affected group does not align with the potentially rewarded group, and that's a problem.

This new alcohol tax will cost us, and it just doesn't make sense. The Port Authority of Allegheny County is already doubling the amount Carnegie Mellon and Pitt will pay for student bus passes; Carnegie Mellon's total cost will peak at $1.5 million over the next five years, and these costs will be reflected in our fee payments.

Furthermore, the raised cost of alcohol will push the social act of drinking outside Allegheny County, a counter-intuitive move for a city claiming to be actively fighting the brain drain.

Imposing a 10 percent poured alcohol tax seems like a dementedly noble, Robin Hood-like attempt at saving the public transportation in Pittsburgh. The Port Authority needs saving, but the proposed tax on poured alcohol is far from a sustainable solution.
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