Alcohol tax to curb crime? - KOTA Territory News

Alcohol tax to curb crime?

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It's a tax reform proposal that has come and failed many times in South Dakota.

Now, a Rapid City Alderman is taking a shot at a state-wide tax on alcohol. 

Captain Dan Rud has spent nearly 15 years patrolling Rapid City streets.

"The majority of people I arrested were for spousal abuse, DUI, disorderly conduct or getting in fights, assaultive behavior," said Rud, with the Rapid City Police department.

And Rud says, roughly 80% of the calls received by the police department are alcohol related.

"A vast majority of those incarcerated are there as a result of drugs or alcohol. The impact is statewide," said Rapid City Alderman Jerry Wright.

And its costly to tax payers. State alcohol revenue is roughly $14 million a year. But the cost for crimes caused by alcohol is much higher.

"Juvenile services, wow... $5 million. Law enforcement $6 million, public defender $1.4m, State's Attorney $2.4m. These are huge number," said Wright as he flipped through the 2011 Pennington county budget. 

Pennington county spends roughly $38 million dollars a year on law enforcement and court costs.

That's about $200 in property taxes per household, something Alderman Wright wants to change. He's drafted a proposal that would increase the existing alcohol tax by about 1500 percent.

"We're looking at 38 cents a bottle of beer, 55 cents a shot, we're going to add $6 to a six pack," said Wright.

But not everyone is confident the measure would curb crime.

"I don't' know that it would fix somebody's drinking problem but it would help relieve some of those costs that are involved," said Captain Rud. 

Wright says he's getting strong support for the measure from lawmakers and citizens alike.

"There's families and spouses and businesses that are affected. Those are all social costs and they're huge, but this is just the beginning," said Wright.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has expressed his concerns over the proposal, saying it would be hard to implement, and may force people to drive into bordering states to buy alcohol.

 

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