Aid for Maryland’s disabled got lost in alcohol-tax deal

Originally Published in the Washington Post

Marc Kilmer May 24, 2011

In their May 22 Local Opinions commentary “How Maryland beat the alcohol lobby,” David Jernigan and Vincent DeMarco left out one very important strategy used in pushing through an alcohol tax hike: bait-and-switch.

Advocates promoted the alcohol tax increase as a way to help people with disabilities. The tax hike that passed supposedly will produce $85 million a year in revenue, but people with disabilities have been promised only a one-year sum of $15 million.

You would think that those supporting a tax increase to help people with disabilities would be upset if the vast bulk of the new revenue were spent on other things. It seems clear that helping people with disabilities was of secondary importance to those backing the alcohol tax.

Advocates used support for people with disabilities as a way to shame tax-hike opponents but then discarded the interests of people with disabilities at the last minute. When the Senate Republicans offered an amendment to earmark all new tax revenue for disability services, nary a word in support was offered by these advocates.

This type of cynical dealmaking was perhaps the most key strategy to passing the alcohol tax, something Mr. Jernigan and Mr. DeMarco should have acknowledged.