The proposal is coming from the Utah Association of Counties and the Utah Sheriffs' Association, the latter of which features former Weber County Attorney Reed Richards as its lawyer.
Richards was once chief criminal deputy to Utah's attorney general.
Joining Richards in pitching the proposal to the subcommittee were eight county sheriffs, including Weber Sheriff Terry Thompson, as well as three Utah Department of Corrections administrators and Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmeister.
"I'm calling it a use tax, although not everybody is," Richards
said in an interview, meaning it will help offset the impact of alcohol abusers.
cited a Weber State University study, completed in January, of the state's 29 county jails.
That study shows 80 percent of the prisoners at the time had an alcohol problem.
The 80 percent weren't casual drinkers, Richards
said, but rather were imbibers who had sought treatment or some kind of program for a drinking problem.
The 5 cents would apply to any 12-ounce serving of beer, whether retail, in clubs or from liquor stores, he
The approach was taken to the last session of the Legislature
said, "but we didn't push it hard, just introduced the concept."
The funding of incarceration in counties for violations of state law "has been debated since the beginning of time," Richards
About seven years ago, the Legislature
agreed by statute to fund 50 percent of the roughly $80-a-day cost of housing a state inmate in a county jail, he
But the law said the 50 percent would be appropriated "subject to funding availability," Richards
said, making the 50 percent rate flexible.
The total annual appropriation has varied over the years from $6 million, or about 18 percent, to the current figure of $11 million, or about 28 percent, he
The 5-cent tax's $14 million take would cover the 50 percent lawmakers agreed to, Richards
The funding is for "felony probation offenders" who could be sent to prison but are instead sentenced to county jails, he
They are separate from the category of inmates sentenced to state prison, then transferred to county jails because of overcrowding, which is handled by contract, Richards
"Support right now is hard to gauge," he
said, with the proposal currently lacking a bill sponsor, but he
added it's early yet for the January session of the Legislature
Of some consolation may be that the tax is not a percentage, he
The 5 cents would be tacked on whether the brew were a Heineken
or Old Milwaukee.
It's possible the 5 cents could be taken from existing tax revenues, he
said, if there is too much fallout over a tax hike.