Councilor Bill Linehan Still Wants to Tax Your Alcohol Purchases

If it were up to him, residents would be paying a 6.25 percent sales tax on booze.

Citing the devastating effects of substance abuse, newly-elected City Council President Bill Linehan filed a home rule petition that, if passed, would put a tax on certain types of alcohol purchases, and pour the money generated from the proposal back into addiction treatment programs.

“The neighborhoods in [the city] are experiencing the adverse effects of substance abuse and addictions which lead to an increase in crime, and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs are important services that provide assistance to those individuals suffering from addiction,” Linehan wrote in a filing submitted to the City Council for consideration.

The home rule petition for a special law in Boston recommends adding a 6.25 percent sales tax to purchases of alcoholic beverages. “The revenue generated from this tax shall be used to fund prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse in the city,” according to Linehan’s proposal. A call to Linehan’s office to discuss the legislation was not immediately returned.

The proposal will be voted on Wednesday before the entire council, before being referred to a working group. From there, if the bill advanced, it would have to be approved by elected officials on Beacon Hill. Linehan filed the same bill back in September of 2013, but it never went anywhere. Like this one, his previous proposal called for the tax to be applied to businesses with off-premise licenses, which includes package stores, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

If Linehan’s proposal were to pass, it would make Boston the only city in the state with that type of alcohol tax. All beverages sold in unopened original containers for off-premises consumption are tax exempt in Massachusetts. In 2009, at the same time elected officials raised the state’s sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, they introduced a new tax on alcohol purchases. Soon after, storeowners argued that the tax hurt sales, especially for stores that bordered New Hampshire, where there is no extra charge. The law was quickly repealed a year later by voters.

Much like Linehan’s intended tax, the money generated from the alcohol taxes implemented by the state was meant to support substance abuse prevention and recovery programs. But residents and business owners thought the increase was too much of a burden.

Linehan, who has voted against measures such as expanding the liquor license laws in Boston by relinquishing state control, a proposal floated by Councilor Ayanna Pressley, is viewed as one of the more conservative members of the Council.

The full home rule petition is below: