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Alcohol tax brews debate



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October 13, 2010
Does a sales tax on alcohol hurt more than it helps? That is a question left to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Question 1 on the Tuesday, Nov. 2 election ballot will ask voters to eliminate the state sales on alcohol. If passed, the cut would take effect Jan. 1, 2011. Lawmakers last year imposed the tax hoping to boost state revenues in a sagging economy and in the wake of budget cuts.

Alcohol treatment counselors favor the tax. Spectrum Health Systems CEO Charles Faris, whose company operates alcohol treatment centers in southern Worcester County, said he opposed the question for several reasons. First, the tax money, by law, goes toward alcohol treatment programs, which would take a dramatic hit if the question passed. Faris said between $90-$105 million went to programs this year.

"It would diminish our ability to help more people," Faris said of the potential effect of repealing the tax. "[The tax] is going for a dedicated use that makes sense."

On the "yes" side of the question, Sal LeDonne, an adviser and former owner of Big Discount Liquors in Southbridge, said the tax hurts sales in an already poor economy.

"It is not good business for us," he said. "We already pay enough taxes."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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