Connecticut targets drinkers' wallets

Connecticut is joining the parade of financially troubled state governments looking to raise revenues by raising taxes on drinkers.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Thursday unveiled a new two-year budget that would raise "sin taxes" such as those on alcoholic beverages and tobacco and corporation taxes by $391 million. Those, she says, are the only taxes she'll consider.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly's two Democratic-controlled budget committees passed a proposal calling for $1.8 billion in tax increases, including higher income tax rates for wealthier taxpayers.

Connecticut, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the only states that have not yet passed a budget for the current fiscal year.

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said Friday that the governor's proposal to raise the excise tax on beer, wine and distilled spirits by 10% to raise about $8.5 million over the two years "is taxing the six pack but not the six-figure salary. This is not shared sacrifice. This is Republican-style trickle down economics."

Democrats would not raise alcohol taxes, but would hike the $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes to $2.75 to collect about $142 million over the biennium.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., the industry lobbying and educational organization, called Rell's proposed tax increase on alcohol "a bad deal for recession-weary Connecticut consumers" and said allowing alcohol sales on Sunday -- now prohibited in the state -- would provide double or triple the revenue raised by the tax increase.

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