Liquor tax could pay for tougher OWI law
By: Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A State Senate panel passed a plan Tuesday that would raise the tax on hard liquor to cover the cost of tougher penalties for drunk drivers.
Other than the liquor tax, the plan is similar to one that passed the Assembly last month. It would require ignition interlocks for all repeat drunk drivers and make a fourth arrest in five years a felony. It would also criminalize a first offense if someone younger than 16 is in the car.
But new projections released Tuesday showed the plan would cost more than $70 million. To cover the cost, the bill proposed by Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, would raise the tax on liquor by 50 cents per liter. Sullivan says everyone agrees the state needs drunk driving reform.
“If its public policy worth passing, then it should be worth paying for,” he says.
But the author of the Assembly’s drunk driving package took issue with the new cost estimates from the Departments of Transportation and Corrections. Tony Staskunas, D-West Allis, called them inflated.
“If a Department doesn’t like a bill, they can get creative with fiscal estimates and I think that’s what’s going on,” he says.
Staskunas’s proposal passed the Assembly last month on a unanimous vote. But Republicans gave this latest Senate plan a cool reception, voting against it in committee.