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Anchorage Assembly sends alcohol sales tax to April ballot

December 24, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A proposal to set a 5 percent sales tax on alcohol to fund services that address homelessness and substance abuse will go before Anchorage voters next year.

The Anchorage Assembly voted last week to send Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s alcohol tax proposal to the city’s ballot in April, the Anchorage Daily News reported .

Berkowitz’s administration expects the tax to raise about $13 million, which could be used to fund homeless shelters, storage for property seized at illegal camps, a mobile intervention team and a treatment center.

The tax would add about 40 cents to the price of a six-pack of beer and about 50 cents to cost of a mixed drink. Berkowitz and assembly members have said that declining support from the state is forcing the city to consider the tax as an option.

During the city meeting last week, business owners said the tax could scare away customers and it would unfairly place the burden of the city’s complex problems on retailers and residents.

“I am afraid, like many restaurateurs in this room, (the tax) will hurt patronage,” said Dana Walukiewicz, an owner of King Street Brewing Co.

Past efforts to tax alcohol have failed in Anchorage. Voters rejected two separate initiatives in 1994 and 1995. The city assembly has also rejected past tax measures brought forward by lawmakers.

Representatives of social services agencies voiced support for the new measure at the meeting.

“I really see this as a question of what kind of community do we want to live in in the next five to 10 years?” said Dave Rittenberg, the director of Brother Francis Shelter.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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