Local Governments in Southern States Look to Alcohol to Boost Revenues

By Join Together Staff

From The Partnership at Drugfree.org

Local governments in southern states are starting to look to alcohol sales as a way to boost revenues.

In Harrison, Arkansas, stores began selling beer and wine earlier this year, the Associated Press reports. The city hopes it will bring in up to $200,000 annually from alcohol-related sales taxes and fees—which represents about 1 percent of the budget.

The city of 13,000 residents, in the Ozark Mountains, finds tourists are staying longer ever since voters approved alcohol sales in the city last year. “We’re a pretty poor county, and we just can’t afford to say we don’t want anyone’s business,” Gerald Ragland, Harrison’s Finance Director, told the AP.

Until last year, Boone County, where Harrison is located, was “dry,” as were many municipalities across the South. Critics of the move to allow alcohol sales in Harrison said dry laws help prevent criminal activity and underage drinking. Supporters of lifting the alcohol sales ban countered that the law promoted increased drinking, because people would buy alcohol in bulk when they had to drive further to purchase it.

Other towns across the South are easing alcohol sales restrictions, including laws that prohibit sales on Sundays. Many dry laws have been eliminated in Texas since 2003, when the state legislature changed state law to make it less complicated to hold “wet/dry” elections, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

[NOTE from ALCAP: No one is quoting the figures from the costs of alcohol to our society. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the total cost of alcohol use in the United States in 1998 was estimated at $185 billion. More recent estimates have pushed that number up to $220 billion per year!]

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