The Capitol Record

Will beer tax find new life under proposed DUI legislation?

A proposal to extend the state’s beer tax that died earlier this week may find new life under legislation aimed at cracking down on drunken drivers.

House Democrats dropped the plan to extend a tax on brewers that was set to expire later this year, but on Friday the Senate Law and Justice Committee was briefed on an amendment to Senate Bill 5912 that would use revenue from a beer tax to pay for costs associated with the stricter DUI laws.

The author of the amendment, Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), has proposed a separate amendment that would tap a liquor excise tax to pay for new DUI legislation. Kline said he does not intend to use both taxes, but is hoping for support of one or the other.

“I don’t want to tax both beer and liquor. They don’t go together,” Kline said

The revenue would help solve one of the many concerns stakeholders have with proposals to go after repeat DUI offenders. Regardless of the final product, most lawmakers agree tougher penalties will result in higher court, prison, treatment and monitoring costs.

The beer tax extension earlier proposed in the House Democrats package would have raised a projected $60 million over two years. It was dropped over fears that large beer companies would challenge the tax with a ballot initiative.

Two recent high-profile DUI cases in the Seattle area that left three people dead have prompted lawmakers to make a push for tougher laws in the final days of the 105-day legislative session.

The committee took no action on bill Friday.

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