The next time your conservative relatives in Tennessee or Kentucky start on their “Taxed Enough Already” spiels, tell ‘em to practice what they preach. Because if they want to engage in that conversation over a drink, it’s gonna cost them quite a bit in taxes, and apparently due to those same so-called “conservative values.”
Those two southern states hold the top spot in excise tax rates on beer ($1.29 per gallon in Tennessee) and wine ($3.18/gallon in Kentucky). And while both of those whiskey-famous states rank lower in spirit taxes, it can be damn hard to get any kind of alcohol in those locations. And this applies to most other southern states, too, due to presence of “dry counties.”
That’s where the hypocrisy becomes evident. The Republican voters and elected officials that dominate those states, and who clamor for low taxes and more freedom and smaller government? They’re the same ones who took a big government role to create those high taxes, and with specific goals of restricting freedom to consume alcohol after the 18th Amendment and Prohibition Act were repealed.
So if you want to find a cheaper place to have that argument with the conservative side of your family, see the information below. Produced by the Tax Foundation, these maps show the excise taxes charged by each state on all types of alcoholic beverages, and they’re followed by a “dry county” map, too.
If beer’s your beverage, wander over to Wyoming, which has the country’s lowest tax on suds – only two cents per gallon – according to the Tax Foundation. Next lowest at eight cents are two states famous for the breweries – Wisconsin and Missouri. Oregon and Pennsylvania finish the Top 5 (eight cents per gallon).
Louisiana has the lowest excise tax on wine (11 cents per gallon). Tied for second lowest are Texas and wine-producing California, each charging 20 cents. Wisconsin’s 25 cents is next, and Kansas and New York tie for fifth at 30 cents per gallon of wine.
You’ll see that another five “control states,” where only state-operated stores can sell wine (thus making any tax rate incomparable to that of other states), aren’t marked in this next map.
For spirits, Wyoming again takes the title. Along with New Hampshire, it charges no excise tax on liquor. Finishing the Top 5 in this lowest-tax category are West Virginia ($1.87 per gallon), Missouri ($2.00), and Colorado ($2.28).
In this map of U.S. counties below, a public domain image obtained from Wikipedia, the ones in blue are “wet.” Aside from basic laws such as purchasing age, no restrictions on alcohol sales are present. Those in red are official “dry” counties, where no alcohol may be sold. Yellow counties are “moist,” meaning either there are some restrictions, such as no sales on Sundays, or those counties have incorporated towns that allow no alcohol sales.
Notice all the red in Tennessee and Kentucky, the two states specified earlier? Well, you can’t buy Jack Daniels even in the same place where it’s made, because Lynchburg’s Moore County is dry. And of 120 counties in Kentucky – home of all Bourbon whiskies – 48 of them are dry.
Please know that these restrictions, as well as the restrictions imposed by tax rates in many states, aren’t just old leftovers from the days immediately following the repeal of Prohibition. Take Mississippi, for example, where each municipality is required to create its own alcohol laws. Some towns in that very red and Republican state changed to dry in the 1980s, according to the Washington Post.
And the next time any of your Bluegrass friends or Volunteer family want to talk Tea Party? Let them know that they’re the ones responsible for the tab.