(Riverton, Wyo.) – Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness said this week that a Wyoming Legislative Interim Committee had rejected a proposal to increase the state’s tax on beer for substance abuse treatment programs. He said there was even talk at the meeting to eliminate the tax altogether.
Wyoming’s tax on beer, which was originally set early in the 20th Century at $0.02 per gallon, has not changed since and is the lowest tax on beer in the United States.
“The two cents per gallon tax brings in $256,000 a year, but if the tax was raised to the national average of 28 cents per gallon, the revenue would be about $2-million, which could be used to address the alcohol problems we have in the state,” he said. “Alcohol now costs the state $148 million each year.” Warpness said all taxes on alcohol, including beer, wine and spirits sold in Wyoming, total about $14-million.
The mayor told the Riverton City Council this week that “the alcohol industry need to cowboy up and pay their share.” He said the argument that people would stop drinking beer, or that it would hurt retailers if the tax was raised was “ridiculous.”
Warpness said that during the legislative hearing held in Buffalo, Liquor Industry lobbyist Mike Moser of Cheyenne had promoted the use of alcohol in small amounts “as a health food, and I said if that was the case, we have the healthiest community in the state.”
Despite the rebuff by the Joint Interim Revenue Committee, Warpness said there was more support for the issue this year than in years past. “Co-Chairman Sen. Ray Peterson (R-Cowley) is very supportive of it, and he said he would carry it on his own.”
The City of Riverton budgeted support to the local Volunteers of America-Northern Rockies Alcohol Crisis Center in the amount of $112,500 this year.