Battling brewing over anticipated alcohol modernization tax dollars

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OKLAHOMA CITY - There’s a battle brewing over beer money at the State Capitol.

When our new alcohol laws go into effect, that’ll mean more tax revenue on high point beer.

There are two schools of thought.

Some lawmakers want the tax dollars to go to the state to help our budget crisis.

Others say that money should stay in the counties and cities.

In November, Oklahomans said they want modern alcohol laws – high point beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores.

Lawmakers who pushed the overhaul, expected to tweak the law before it goes into effect in 2018.

“I think there was careful consideration then, that yes, we're going to have to go in and fix the tax code,” Rep. Cory Williams said.

Low point beer is taxed on a sales tax rate, but more people will be buying high point beer, taxed at the higher beverage tax rate.

Rep. Glen Mulready wants to cap the counties’ share of the alcoholic beverage tax and send the rest to the state’s general revenue fund.

Under the proposed bill, cities and counties could lose out on a lot of money.

“The budget at the state level is more at a crisis level than the counties,” Rep. Mulready said.

“Aren’t we just assuring state government is growing faster than county government?” Rep. Shane Stone asked on the House floor.

“No I don’t think we’re growing government at all. We’re just trying to fund our current deficits at the state,” Rep. Mulready replied.

“I know we’re kicking over every stone this year looking for money to fill that budget hole, but we don’t need to do it on the backs of municipalities who were are consistently mandating do more and more functions with less dollars,” Rep. Williams said.

Some argue keeping more tax money in counties and cities would help those along the border, where Oklahomans have frequently just crossed the state line to buy high point beer.

“I really think we ought to go back to the percentage. That way you are always adjusting for inflation because it’s based off what you’re actually bringing in, not a capped number,” Rep. Williams said.

Rep. Mulready’s bill failed by a vote of 48-38, but he said he will ask for another vote soon.

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