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Assembly puts a cork in $1.4 billion alcohol mitigation fee

Posted: January 6, 2010 4:42 p.m.
Updated: January 5, 2010 4:41 p.m.
 
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- While California scrambles to fill another multi-billion dollar budget hole, the Assembly Health Committee killed a $1.4 billion mitigation fee program to charge the alcohol industry for some of the state's annual $38 billion in alcohol-related harm.

"In the worst budget year ever, the Assembly Health Committee did not stand up to Big Alcohol lobbyists," said Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director at Marin Institute, the alcohol industry watchdog and AB 1019's sponsor. "Cutbacks to emergency rooms, state troopers, police, firefighters and treatment centers could have been avoided with AB 1019."

Authored by Assembly Member Jim Beall (D-San Jose), the bill would have created the Alcohol-Related Services Program to help cover California's annual alcohol-related trauma care, hospitalization, treatment, prevention, and criminal justice costs. The measure would have created new jobs while preserving those essential services.

"The alcohol industry must know by now that Jim Beall doesn't back down," said Assembly Member Beall. "People all over the state are telling me to keep fighting, and that's exactly what we will do this year with a new mitigation bill."

The Charge for Harm Alliance that has been building since early 2009 continues to support Beall's efforts. They rallied on the Capitol steps before today's committee vote.

With strong members like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA), SEIU 1021, County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators' Association of California (CADPAAC), Asian American Drug Programs (AADAP), the Los Angeles Coalition on Alcohol Policy (LA-CAP), Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), The Latino Commission, and AWARE Coalition/Tarzana Treatment Centers, support for charging the alcohol industry is expected to grow over 2010.

"It's irresponsible and unfair for our state to make cuts that severely hurt kids when a simple solution like a fee on alcohol is available," said Semra Sehic, Kearny High School student and member of the San Diego County Youth Council. "Why are our elected leaders trying to protect the alcohol industry from reasonable and long-overdue excise tax or fee increases while at the same time forcing kids to suffer from drastic budget cuts? The majority of Californians favor alcohol fee increases - what are they waiting for?"

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