Anchorage's proposed alcohol tax is failing, for now
Preliminary election numbers show Proposition 9, a 5% retail tax on alcohol proposed by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz's administration, appears to be failing.
After more unofficial results were released Wednesday, voters against the measure outweighed those in favor by about 2,300 votes.
The tax would apply anywhere consumers buy alcohol, including restaurants, bars and liquor stores. The administration stated during the campaign that money would be dedicated to homeless services, including camp clean-up, public safety and substance abuse treatment. The mayor said it cannot be spent for other purposes.
On Tuesday, Berkowitz was not happy with the direction the vote was leaning.
"There's no question that hundreds of thousands of liquor industry money that's brought in from outside distorted the discussion here," Berkowitz said Tuesday evening. "I think it overwhelmed the truth of what the alcohol tax proposed to do with a lot of falsehoods and I hope the liquor industry feels some measure of chagrin and embarrassment for how they ran this campaign."
He says if the tax doesn't go through, he'll evaluate other options.
"I'm a believer that if you get knocked down, you get back up," he said. "We might have been knocked down; we're going to get back up because my responsibility is to make sure that we can make Anchorage as safe as we possibly can. This offered us some tools to do some things that we aren't currently able to do, but we've got other ways of possibly moving forward."
Supporters of the tax said it would have a minimal impact to residents' wallets — about 40 cents more for a six-pack of beer, 50 cents for a $10 mixed drink, or $2 for a $50 bottle of wine. The proposal has garnered support from Brown Jug, one of the state's largest alcohol retailers.
But many others in the alcohol industry have come out against it including the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR). Other large contributors include alcohol beverage companies like Anheuser-Busch, which contributed more than $24,000 and MillerCoors donating $10,000.
Sarah Oates, president and CEO of Alaska CHARR, said the organization "is vehemently opposed to the proposed Anchorage alcohol tax." The alcohol industry should be be proactive, Oates said. Part of her plan is to be more involved with the community and the Berkowitz administration to work on the problems that the tax would address.
"This is way more than just an alcohol industry issue," Oates said in an earlier interview. "This is a community issue and I do believe that the industry wanted to see more community input instead of this just being another financial burden on the alcohol industry."
If Proposition 9 is passed by voters, it would take effect in January 2020.
Rhonda McBride and Megan Mazurek contributed to this story.
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