Liquor lobbyists urge lawmakers to reject increase on Kansas alcohol taxes

TOPEKA (KSNT) — State lawmakers started two days of hearings late Wednesday on tax increases critical to Governor Sam Brownback’s plan to balance the budget.

First on their agenda, a plan to increase alcohol taxes.

“If you approve this tax that’s going to be a 4 percent cost of increase on the goods sold for every bar and restaurant,” said Tuck Duncan, Kansas Wine and Spirit Wholesale Association members.

And that’s what has many restaurant owner, retail shops, bars and distributes across the state fighting back against the plan to raise the Kansas excise tax on alcohol. It’s an increase they argue is not only bad for the beer and liquor industry but also consumers.

“It will raise the price of drinks to the consumer out there by 7 to 10 percent,” said Phil Bradley, Kansas Licensed Beverage Association member.

For example…

“I would have to move my margarita prices up about 50 cents. Right now they are about $4 so it would probably go up to about $4.50,” said Janez Lomshek, Owner of Talk of the Town restaurant in Johnson County.

And how much more for a case of beer?

“About a $1.30… that’s a fare amount of money,” said Jason Walker, Kansas Beer Wholesale Association member.

Beer and liquor lobbyist also argue raising the tax will cost jobs in the liquor store.

“If we lost 15 percent business at one of our stores it could cost us that store we have seven employees. It could make us have to lose two employees. So two out of seven even is significant,” said Jennifer Vogel, owner of Blacks Liquors and Rodgers Wholesale Liquor Store.

And cross-border competition is also a concern.

“50 percent of all liquor bought in stores is within 80 miles of Missouri,” said Vogel.

Lobbyists got a big boost in their campaign just before the hearing. House Speaker Ray Merrick says he’ll vote against the governor’s plan – saying the state should cut spending before raising taxes.

Wednesday was just round one of the hearings on the governor’s proposed sin tax increases. Thursday the house committee will take up tobacco taxes.

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