Proposed House Bill 1686 Raises Controversy, Taxes on Alcohol for Oklahomans

Sierra Rains-Moad

A relatively new bill going through the Oklahoma House of Representatives has brought about a debate among Oklahomans.

House Bill 1686 proposes raising excise tax on alcoholic beverages and exempting them from sales tax. The excise tax on a barrel of beer would increase from $12.50 to $45 and from $1.47 per liter to $3.50 per liter on spirits, resulting in a large hike in price for consumers.

Local Norman resident Josh Elliot, a proponent of the bill, said the bill would provide health benefits by discouraging people from drinking alcohol and providing more money for the state amid a budget crisis. Elliot said he considers himself to be among the upper-class and would continue to pay for alcohol, regardless of the price.

“I say, I like it. Go for it, and I would pay the extra tax. It’s just like gasoline, even if gas was super expensive I would still drive it everywhere,” Elliot said.

Dan Sloat, OU law student and former U.S. Air Force Captain, argued for the opposing side. Sloat said that while he acknowledges the possible health and economic benefits of passing the bill, he ultimately thinks there are better options and resources for state funds.

“It’s clear that we need to do something to help alleviate the growing budget deficit. The discouraging of drinking alcohol will be good for Oklahomans from a moral aspect, I just don’t feel like that’s the right approach,” Sloat said.

Former Oklahoma State Governor, Brad Henry, explained that sin taxes are usually the easiest to raise, making them an accessible option for finding more state funds. However, Henry said current party polarization is preventing legislators from accomplishing what needs to be done.

“Anything to do with taxes is going to be highly controversial in this legislature. My guess is, at the end of the day, it doesn’t pass. I just don’t think this group has the courage to do what needs to be done. I hope they surprise me, but I don’t see it,” Henry said.