Because it’s not high enough to affect beer consumption in this state. While such reasoning may baffle the CNI zealots, it is perfectly rational to (very) modestyl tax one of the most popular products in the state to generate some much-needed state revenue.
Madison’s own Fred Risser, the longest serving state senator in Wisconsin history, proposes raising the beer tax by 15 cents per 6 pack, meaning a customer would pay 18 cents rather than the current 3.6 cents per sixer, which, as you may have guessed,was put in place in 1969. Terese Berceau, also supports the tax (video) but uses what I see as misleading health justifications rather than fiscal ones. Granted, the money collected by the tax is supposed to be used to increase enforcement of drunk driving laws, which would be a worthy long-term goal regardless of the economy and the budget. But, just for the record, the beer tax would be a good way to fund just about anything. Why do specific taxes like these always have to fund specific initiatives?
Anyhow, Risser’s got the right idea. That octogenarian knows his district well enough to know how best to get the citizens paying taxes. The tax is large enough to make a difference in times of deficit but not big enough to deter purchase of beer. The tavern lobby should not oppose this plan because it will have an absolutely negligible effect on their business. Beer is simply too popular and too important in the lives of those who enjoy it and buy it. To those who only buy it occasionally, the tax is even easier to ignore. 15 cents! That means that if you drink a six pack every day you will spend $1 more a week.
Unfortunately a plan this sensible is unlikely to come up for a vote any time soon. Risser is currently the only senator to have signed on to the measure. If it did, you can expect a knee-jerk anti-tax reaction from the campus papers, in particular the Herald editorial board, which tends to subscribe to supply-side arguments to the point of paradox. For instance, in defending the bus fare raise, the board described the fee hike as necessary to avoid tax hikes, just as “enhanced interrogation” is necessary to avoid having to torture people.