SALT LAKE CITY — The House passed a bill Thursday requiring local governments to spend at least 10 percent of beer tax revenues on programs intended to prevent underage and binge drinking.
"The principle here is simply we need to prevent some problems before they occur on our highways, in our schools and in our homes," the sponsor of HB40, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said.
Although Draxler initially wanted to raise the beer tax now split between the state and local entities to pay for expanding prevention programs, he said his fellow lawmakers made it clear they weren't interested in a tax increase.
"That didn't sit right with me," said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, citing the current use of the $13 million collected annually. Only about 4 percent of those funds now go toward prevention efforts, he said.
At the state level, all of the beer tax moneys are deposited into the general fund. Local governments have limits on how the money is used, but most goes toward alcohol-related incarceration or prosecution, Greene said.
Draxler's bill, which passed 64-6 and now goes to the Senate, spells out that local governments have to spend at least 10 percent of the beer tax dollars on prevention programs.
"The bill simply says we think that is important enough to boost it to 10 percent," Draxler said. "Ten percent is still not a lot of money compared to the whole amount."
Several House members objected to the state telling local governments how to use the money. Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, called the bill an "overreach" by state government.
Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, welcomed the legislation. Wilcox said he "couldn't be happier" to see more of the money used for prevention. "Hallelujah," he said, calling the programs "a wise use of funds."