Proposed state alcohol tax hike raises concern among local bar owners

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Illinois residents could see an increase in alcohol prices to rebuild Illinois’ roads and bridges

To help pay for the $41.5 billion six year infrastructure project, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office has unveiled a capital plan to increase fees and taxes, including a tax hike on alcohol. 

“We’re more than willing to help out,” said former Illinois Licensed Beverage Association President Jay Gesner. “We want to be part of the solution, but we can’t be the whole thing and you can’t hit us all at once like this.”

The per-gallon tax on beer and cider would rise 4.6 cents, wine would rise 66 cents and liquor would rise more than $4.

In all, the proposed tax is expected to bring in an estimated $120 million for the state.

“There’s a lot of places that won’t make it if they get all these taxes through and the raises, and the minimum wage,” Gesner said. “It’ll shut some people down.”

Gesner is also the owner of Souse’s and Stumpy’s Pub in Rockford. He says the potential hikes could drive customers away.

“Where the taxes aren’t as high, they’ll go get gasoline, maybe they’ll go over and have a few cocktails across the Statelines,” Gesner said. “It affects us.”

State lawmakers say Illinois’ infrastructure has been neglected for far too long, but add many of the proposed taxes wouldn’t be necessary if a gaming expansion bill is passed.

“Casinos across the state which will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Senator Steve Stadelman (D-34th). “ I think that’s better way to fund this plan. I appreciate the Governor moving this conversation forward, we need the capital plan, but I think he may run into a lot of opposition as far as the specific revenue sources that he has suggested.”

In Governor Pritzker’s initial plan, no tax dollars are budgeted for Rockford projects.

“A capital plan that is approved by the General Assembly will include projects for Rockford,” Stadelman said. “Those still need to be determined yet.”

Lawmakers are working to finalize the state budget, including the capital plan, before their schedule May 31st adjournment.   

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