5¢-a-Drink Alcohol Tax Proposed to Help Fill Illinois Budget Gap, Protect Drug, Alcohol Treatment Funding

(Chicago, IL) – The State of Illinois currently is facing an estimated $11.6 billion budget deficit. Billion.

Lawmakers have introduced dozens of proposals to raise revenue designed to help address this deficit, including increases in cigarette taxes, property taxes, and gasoline taxes, to name a few. These revenue sources will be essential to help avert last year’s crisis in funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment.

TASC, along with other members of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA), is calling on state lawmakers to increase the state’s alcohol tax by a nickel a drink. This move would raise $250 millions for cash-strapped Illinois and restore $12.9 million cut from addiction healthcare services in Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed FY 2010 budget.

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of IADDA, noted that as people turn even more to alcohol and drugs in these tough economic times, treatment must be available. “We are calling on Speaker Michael Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate President John Cullerton, and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno to raise revenue and to restore cuts made to treatment services by passing a nickel-a-drink alcohol tax increase.”

Lawmakers return to Springfield on April 21 to continue to work on the FY 2010 state budget.

The 2008-09 Budget Crisis
Faced with a 43 percent budget cut by then-Governor Rod Blagojevich in July 2008, advocates for substance abuse treatment services across Illinois worked throughout the summer and fall to get this state funding restored. If fully implemented, the cuts would have eliminated services to 42,000 Illinoisan residents.

Furthermore, given that the criminal justice system is the source of 35 percent of referrals to publicly funded substance abuse treatment in Illinois, the state’s funding cuts would drastically reduce treatment as a sentencing option for nonviolent offenders with alcohol and drug problems.

A typical prison sentence of 1.5 years for nonviolent, drug-involved offenses costs approximately $32,400 per person. By contrast, treatment and case management for the same time period costs an average of $4,425 per person.

Response to Last Year’s Cuts:  Statewide Support for TASC and Treatment
Across Illinois, thousands spoke out against Blagojevich’s cuts. Individuals in recovery from addiction, treatment providers, clients, family members, community leaders, sheriffs, probation officers, judges, researchers, news editors, and others all voiced their objections.

By the end of September, through a series of special legislative sessions, Illinois lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to restore the full $55 million that had been cut from the budget.

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