When we get a phone call from a constituent to the Legislative information desk, someone sends us a little yellow piece of paper with the brief massage typed out and a return address where we can call or write back. Last week the yellow phone call slips started flowing, a constant stream of "Don't tax my beer and wine" messages rippling out from the alcohol distributors, to the bars and restaurants to the patrons, riled like colonists at a tea party.
I understand. No one likes to pay more for anything, especially in hard economic times. But I ask, would we rather pay more through some other part of state government to build more prisons, pay for more emergency care from car accidents, more child protection and domestic violence shelters -- all because we do not offer nearly the treatment we should to prevent or end alcoholism and substance abuse in the state of Idaho?
I promise we will all just pay more if we don't someday create a dedicated funding source for treatment. And I'm talking about treatment, not about advertising or bill boards here. We will all watch people in our communities suffer year after year because we didn't help this year, because we didn't see the larger issue here.
I don't like the temperance argument. Moderation is what most people use in their approach to beer and wine. But if those of us who do drink beer and wine are not asked to pay for treatment, then who should pay? If we could tax Meth, believe me, we as a legislature would. We can't. Not Meth or Heroin or Cocaine or any of it. But when someone's family member is addicted and they can not afford an expensive treatment center, where will they go? Who will pay?
Let me say this, I don't know about you, but I would have paid. I would have stepped up and shelled out the seven cents a glass of wine or bottle of beer, and I would have paid so that finally the state of Idaho has a chance to fund real drug treatment as we never have before.
But here on the afternoon of this cloudy spring day, when the Senate floor is subdued and people file in and out on their way to and from committees, it is too late. The beer and wine tax went down, five to thirteen in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this morning.