ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — State leaders along with health advocates like Maryland’s Citizens’ Health Initiative, are launching a new health initiative to create Health Equity Resource Communities (HERC) across Maryland.
“This is obviously a priority to many Marylanders as we have seen, ” said Sen. Antonio hayes, (D) District 40 – Baltimore city. ‘I think someone coined a phrase a duel pandemic sweeping across Maryland and throughout our country.”
The goal is to receive new funding to address health disparities. Under the legislation, health equity resource communities would be able to apply for grants, tax incentives, and health care provided loan repayment assistance. But, it could come at a cost.
Prince George’s County Delegate Erek Barron (D) announced during the Wednesday morning press conference that the revenue would come from an alcohol tax.
Currently, Maryland’s alcohol tax sits at nine percent. Barron said what they are proposing saves tens of millions of dollars per year and would invest the revenue in a way that has already proven to work.
“We know there is a desperate need,” said Del. Barron. “We have heard it. The disparity in our health care systems…racial, ethnic, rural…They are starker than ever.”
While Maryland’s alcohol tax is lower than neighboring Washington DC, Maryland House Republicans said the increase would hurt small businesses.
“I can not think of the worst time to increase expensive for consumers in the state than now,” said Del. Jesse Pippy (R) District 4 – Carroll & Frederick Counties.
House Republicans claim the tax increase could rise to 11 percent.
“Maryland is in the middle of an economic crisis”, said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “Our small businesses are hurting, particularly our restaurants, bars, and mom-and-pop shops. Many of these businesses are hanging on by a thread, making enough to cover bills if they’re lucky. This type of tax increase could be the final straw that puts many out of business.”
Pippy said he is not opposed to moving money to adjust for major priorities.
“We have tax rates in place,” said Pippy during a phone interview. “We have ways to generate revenue. What we need to do is generate activity…not expenses.”
The last time Maryland increased the alcohol tax was in 2011. Lawmakers say they will discuss the legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session.
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