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General Assembly Considering Increase In Beer Tax

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — With the General Assembly looking for every possible penny this year, they may target items such as cigarettes, liquor and beer.

Convenience store clerk Japhet Adams deals with dozens of customers a day. When a price of an item in his store goes up, he is the first to hear about it.

"They'll look at the price, they'll turn around and say, 'You guys are too high,'" Adams said.

Adams may soon hear those words all the time. In an effort to fill a $2 billion gap in the budget, some advocates like the AARP of North Carolina want the state to add a 3-cent tax increase to each serving of beer or wine. It would be the first increase in more than 30 years.

They say the tax hike would spare cuts from health care and education programs, but the idea of more bucks for beer has some people foaming at the mouth.

"They need to look somewhere else. There has to be money from other places that they can get it from," customer Greg Gellner said.

A North Carolina-based Web site called

Pennies Count

lists the benefits of raising the beer tax. It points out it would lead to fewer accidents, crime and underage drinking, but die-hard beer drinkers say if they want it, they will buy it no matter what the price.

"They know they can raise stuff high enough and people are still going to buy it because they want it, so it's a win-win situation," Gellner said.

The current tax on beer is 53 cents per gallon. The Senate plans to vote on its budget proposal in the next three weeks and the spending plan does not include any new taxes. Still, legislative leaders are not ruling out the possibility.

There is a sales tax on liquor in North Carolina, but not a bulk tax because the state controls sales. When you look at the other "sin" products of tobacco, wine and beer, North Carolina is getting a break.

The combined taxes in North Carolina are $1.34, which is a penny less than Tennessee and a lot less than our other neighbors.

Hawaii has the highest total sin tax at nearly three times the rate of North Carolina's.