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Primary Could Bring Md. Closer To Liquor Tax Hike

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By Matt Laslo

A Maryland health care group says more than 140 General Assembly candidates support its proposal for a ten cent tax increase on alcohol and that claim has some small businesses worried about tomorrow's primary election.

Driving north on Georgia Avenue towards downtown Silver Spring you can't miss Firestation One Restaurant and Brewery, with its bright red fire truck out front. At three months old, its owner is bracing for the dime tax increase on alcoholic beverages. Founder Jeremy Gruber says the tax only has one place to go, customers.

"That's probably where unfortunately it will fall, is on the consumers, just because this is something new and unanticipated and you have to find a place to be able to compensate for that," says Gruber.

Montgomery County liquor store owners are especially worried the the tax will drive business into the District, because the price difference could be drastic. Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative of Baltimore is spearheading the tax. Its president, Vincent DeMarco, says it will raise more than $200 million for poor and disabled people's health care. He doubts there will be a serious impact on Maryland business.

"This is a win-win. Good politics and good policy. And that's why so many candidates have endorsed it," says Demarco.

1972 was the last time taxes were raised on wine and beer in Maryland. Supporters say tomorrow's primary could inch them closer to their goal.

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