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Anti-alcohol resolution gets booted by a legislative panel

PIERRE — A legislative resolution calling for "thoughtful taxation" of alcohol products in South Dakota ran into stiff opposition Thursday from some state lawmakers.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 8-3 against adopting it.

HCR 1007 called "for alcohol to become budget neutral rather than a drain on the resources and the economy of South Dakota."

The resolution came from the South Dakota Alcohol Policy Alliance.

Among its claims: Alcohol caused around $600 million of harm in South Dakota, while taxes and other revenue produced around $20 million for state government.

Doing much of the talking in favor of the resolution was Matt Walz. His LinkedIn account said he's a medical affairs specialist and marketing rep for Keystone Treatment Center at Sioux Falls.

"We believe in free markets and free-market economics," Walz said.

Terry Dosch, representing the South Dakota Council of Substance Abuse Directors, said the resolution's language came "from the viewpoint of the trenches" such as emergency rooms and law enforcement.

Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, challenged Walz on the sources of information. Rounds said the studies cited "are basically an individual's research and there's nothing to back it up."

Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown, said she "whole-heartedly" supported the resolution. "This (alcohol) tax has not been raised since 1987," she said. "This is just one small step."

Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau, said the Legislature must recognize "the true problem" that alcohol causes in South Dakota society. Heinemann said a discussion was "very appropriate."

Rep. Mike Diedrich, R-Rapid City, said he didn't want a tax increase and didn't favor approving the resolution "because of the vagaries" but was willing to continue discussion.

Rep. Kris Conzet, R-Rapid City, said the situation felt like "we're putting a toe... toward a massive cost increase."

Rep. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford, said the resolution implied that taxes should be collected at a level equal to the public costs of alcohol abuse.