Okla. Beer License Fee Increase Sparks Debate

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Okla. Beer License Fee Increase Sparks Debate

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Retailers and lawmakers are deeply divided over what effect the new fees for licenses to sell low-point beer will have on Oklahoma.

The revenue raised by the new bill will go to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and will be used to fund rehabilitation programs. Opponents of House Bill 1106 say the costs should not be targeted at one product, like beer. Supporters say the overall costs will be minimal when spread out over a one- or three-year period.

Opposing the bill is State Rep. Ron Kirby, (D-Oklahoma City), who said the bill is a selective tax. "To stick an added tax on retailers is unfair," Kirby said. "Beer is a legal product."

Norman, Okla. Mayor Ron Henderson, also owner of Mr. Shortstop convenience stores, said no matter how small the increase is, it will be passed on to consumers.

"At least it is going back to some of the problems that plague our society," Henderson said. "I'm in the business of cigarettes and three-point beer. The government needs to let free enterprise take its course and not interfere."

Under the new bill, gas stations such as Mr. Shortstop will have to pay $130 every three years.