Drinker’s License Earns Oregonian Easy Money

Drinker’s License Earns Oregonian Easy Money
Mental Health Association of Portland opinion editorial- July 2003

The combination of our 2003 state legislature and governor have finessed such a degree of no-vision-thingy that it’s likely our moiling budget deficit will be carried over with borrowing, two-timing and other fiscal shenanigans. Anything to get out of Salem and back to reality.

Hold that feeling, gents and ladies. Use it again the next time you get a hankering to run for public office.

An example — pandering to the drinking industry (beverage, tourism, hotel and eateries all together) axed the most innovative, voter-friendly notion that coursed through our capital this session. A dime-a-drink tax fell without a sound, out amongst the trees, forgetting to notice the forest of calamity caused by alcohol in Oregon.

Here’s how to not borrow money for the state in 2003. Oregon has a budget deficit of $3.8 billion — probably more by now. Treasurer Randall Edwards is getting ready to go to Wall Street hat in hand for at least $1 billion. Coincidentally, alcohol costs Oregon about one billion dollars a year. Here’s how to get most of that back.

The Governor should appoint a Drinking License Commission. The Drinking License Commission’s mission is to eliminate the expense of alcohol from the Oregon budget.

The DLC does this by creating and enforcing a drinker’s license.

Anyone is eligible to hold a drinker’s license, with the following exceptions: people under the age of 21 (except with parent’s permission and co-signature), and people who have had their drinker’s license revoked. People arrested for alcohol-related crimes can have their licenses or permits revoked as part of their pre-trial agreement.

Annually the DLC defines four numbers.

Using state and local figures, the DLC estimates the cost of alcohol on the state of Oregon, including work productivity, injury, sickness and death, insurance, crime, courts and incarceration, addiction treatment and other ancillary costs.

This is figure A. This figure is estimated to be over $1 billion dollars per year.

Using industry and sales figures, the DLC estimates the asset of alcohol to the state, in tax revenue from sales and employment, from profit and employment, including tourism, from land value, and other ancillary values.

This is figure B. This figure is estimated to be about $100 million dollars per year.

For figures A and B, subtract the smaller from the larger figure — defining the cost or value of alcohol to Oregon. If the value is even or positive, the annual drinker’s license has no cost.

If A < B, this is figure C. For this exercise, this number is $900 million dollars.

Using polling, questionnaires, and other devices, the DLC estimates the number of people who will purchase a drinker’s license.

This is figure D. For this exercise, this number is 500,000 — 20% of Oregon’s population.

If C is defined, divide C by D. This cost is the annual cost of an Oregon Driver’s license. For this exercise, this cost is estimated at $1800.

Visitors to Oregon and occasional drinkers can purchase a temporary drinker’s permit. The cost of the permit is pro-rated, about $5 a day. This permit comes only by application and one month prior to usage.

There should be no impact to industry. People who have paid a price for a drinking license are committed to drinking and will drink more — not less alcohol and make up for the difference as some choose to forgo. Bars, restaurants and stores card for alcohol sales using the drinking license instead of a driver’s license — it bears the same individual information.

The remainder of the DLC’s work is to issue licenses, and educate the state about the requirement of licenses.

All other taxes on alcohol are waived. There is no tax on manufacture or import of alcohol. Individuals who are required to drink or purchase alcohol as part of their work can receive a no cost drinker’s license by application. Churches that use alcohol in religious ceremony as of the date of the initial legislation can apply for a permit for the ceremony. The DLC is charged with enforcement through statute and law enforcement.