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State Rep. Joanne J. Ferrary, a Las Cruces Democrat, is sponsoring a bill in the 2023 New Mexico Legislature “to increase public safety and address the harms that alcohol-related incidents cause in New Mexico,” Ferrary said in a news release.
Ferrary, whose House District 37 is located entirely within Doña Ana County, was joined in sponsoring the bill by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Bernalillo, Jan. 27 in Santa Fe, the news release said.
The bill, filed as House Bill 230 and Senate Bill 259, “Liquor Tax Rates and Differential” in the House and Senate respectively, would create an alcohol harms alleviation fund (AHA).
“New Mexico has the most alcohol-related deaths per capita in the country,” Ferrary said. “In 2021, 2,274 New Mexicans died due to alcohol,” she said, citing the New Mexico Department of Health as the source of the statistic.
Her bill “would address this issue by increasing the alcohol excise tax to 25 cents per drink,” Ferrary said. “This would generate an additional $155 million for … prevention, treatment and reduction programs to help reduce alcohol-related harms in New Mexico.
“New Mexico currently faces high economic losses due to injuries and illnesses, productivity losses, healthcare costs and criminal justice responses to alcohol-fueled crimes,” Ferrary said. “Federal and state researchers calculated these costs at $2.77 per drink in New Mexico as of 2010, estimated to be $3.71 today.”
“This is one of those bad lists that we are No. 1 on, and New Mexicans want to know what we are going to do about that,” said Sedillo Lopez, a retired University of New Mexico law professor who lives in Albuquerque. “This is our chance to protect public safety, improve public health, reduce excessive consumption and save taxpayers money related to alcohol harms.”
“This is commonsense legislation to building a better future for us all,” Ferrary said. “We all know someone who has been impacted by alcohol-related harms and the AHA fund will provide needed prevention, treatment and other reduction programs. Not only does this bill make New Mexico safer, it invests our economy.”
The legislation calls for a significant portion of the revenue it would generate to be appropriated to the New Mexico Department of Human Services to fund recovery, prevention, treatment services, victim support, domestic violence, drug courts, tribal governments and more, Ferrary said.
To view the bills, visit nmlegis.gov and click on either “Legislation” to track them by bill number” or “Legislators” to follow them on Ferrary’s page.