Mayor Ron Warpness

(Lander, Wyo.) – Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness asked the Fremont County Commission on Tuesday to support increasing the state’s beer tax, with the funding to go to alcohol addiction crises centers.

Warpness said he’d like to see Wyoming raise the beer tax from $.02 per gallon to $.28, which is the national average. According to TaxFoundation.org, as of Jan. 1, Wyoming’s beer tax was the lowest in the nation. The highest is Tennessee at $1.17 per gallon. Wyoming’s beer tax has not been adjusted since 1925, he said.

Warpness said Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, is drafting a bill that would indeed raise the beer tax, but it would not be earmarked specifically for treatment programs. While Warpness supports the bill, he’d like to see the earmarks implemented, noting he’s not just wanting to tax for the sake of more money.

“The beer industry should be paying its share,” he said, referring to the problems alcohol can cause.

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson noted that the tax would not be on the beer industry, but the consumers who drink the beer.

Warpness said it didn’t make sense that the tax on a single cigarette is more than on a gallon of beer when a “gallon of beer is killing our people on the highway.”

When asked by Commissioner Keja Whiteman how the tax would be distributed, Warpness said he didn’t know.

The commission did not vote on a supporting resolution, but a draft was left with the commission’s secretary for future consideration. Warpness said the members of the Fremont County Association of Governments seemed generally supportive of the effort. Thompson said he believed voters would support the measure if they knew exactly how the money would be used.

Later in the meeting Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said the legislature generally prefers to not earmark funds and that it might be hard to pass with specific uses for the money identified.