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Beer Tax Eyed to Pay for Healthcare Reform

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Senate lawmakers are looking at raising the federal tax on beer and soft drinks as part of a funding package for national healthcare reform, which could cost the nation up to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, the Associated Press reported May 20.

Legislators are primarily looking to raise taxes on lifestyle choices that contribute to increases in healthcare costs. A tax that would add about $2 to the price of a case of beer was included on a briefing document circulated to members of the Senate Finance Committee this week; the proposal calls for raising the federal tax from 33 cents per six pack to 48 cents.

Taxes on wine (up from 21 cents per bottle to 49 cents) and liquor (up 40 cents per fifth, to $2.54) also are being considered, as is a new 3-cent tax on soda and other sugary drinks fingered in the rising rate of obesity in the U.S.

Lawmakers also are mulling raising income taxes on Americans who receive generous health benefits from employers.

Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to use feedback on the proposals to help draft healthcare-reform legislation, which could be introduced within a few weeks. Lobbyists from the alcohol industry and other affected businesses are already working to derail the tax proposals.

“Singling out wine for higher taxes to reform health care is misguided because wine is part of a healthy diet and lifestyle for millions of Americans,” said Robert P. Koch, president of the Wine Institute.

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