Sandi Rubchinuk understands why so many members of the beer brewing industry are up in arms over a proposed beer tax increase of 10 cents per gallon, but she hopes House lawmakers will remember that there are many people suffering from alcoholism and substance abuse who need help.
Rubchinuk serves as the regional coordinator of Allies in Substance Abuse at the United Way of the Greater Seacoast at Pease International Tradeport. She works with dozens of nonprofit groups throughout Rockingham County that rely on money from the state's Alcohol Fund to help those in need.
New Hampshire's current beer tax is 30 cents per gallon. If the proposed 10 cent beer tax increase called for in House Bill 168 is approved, the beer tax would rise to 40 cents per gallon. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Charles Weed, D-Keene and Rep. Richard Eaton, D-Greenville and the legislation is scheduled to be reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee.
To her knowledge, Rubchinuk said the state has not raised its liquor or beer taxes since 1991. She said a study done by New Futures in Concord in 2009 showed that an increase in the state's liquor or beer taxes would not adversely affect sales or businesses that produce or sell those beverages.
"We can be confident that a 10 cent increase in the beer tax would not have an adverse effect on the state," she said.
Rubchinuk said her group needs about $758,000 to provide alcohol and substance abuse prevention services in Rockingham County for the next three years. If passed, House Bill 168 would provide more than $4.2 million to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services for those services, she said.
"It absolutely helps us," she said.
Rubchinuk said she was disappointed when Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would veto the beer tax bill if it ever reaches her desk. Rubchinuk said the beer tax bill would actually give the state a way to fully fund the Alcohol Fund, which has been underfunded for the last eight years.
She said the state is supposed to dedicate 4 percent of all liquor, beer and wine sales to the Alcohol Fund and instead has devoted less than 1 percent.
"We're advocating to Gov. Hassan this year that she fully fund the Alcohol Fund," Rubchinuk said.
The negative ripple effect of not having enough money from the Alcohol Fund to support programs that help youth and adults battle their alcohol and/or drug addictions is very real, Rubchinuk said. For example, Seacoast Youth Services in Seabrook and The Upper Room in Derry provided programs that educated teens to make better choices to avoid alcohol and/or drug abuse. Both of those programs were lost when the funding to support them was cut in 2010, she said.
To those who argue that approving the beer tax increase would just increase the coffers of the state health and human services agency that would receive the money, Rubchinuk said the money would go into the Alcohol Fund, which is administered by the Governor's Commission on Alcohol Prevention, Intervention and Treatment. As such, she said the money would be dedicated for the purpose it is intended and it would not end up in the General Fund.