Proposed liquor tax would help budget

Champaign’s budget is in bad shape.

To be fair, the economy hasn’t been a friend to many cities since the 2008 market crash, but things have been especially troubling in Champaign. Talks of cutting staff in several civil jobs, reducing police desk hours and more are all very real possibilities that are being discussed, or have been discussed, in recent meetings.

Which is why, when a 4 percent tax on liquor sales was proposed and tentatively supported by the Champaign City Council on May 17, we had to throw our support behind it — cautiously.

Estimates measure the revenue generated by the tax to be somewhere in the realm of $700,000 a year, or a little over three times more than what would be saved if, alternatively, the city cut three civil servant positions.

Sure, the tax might sting a bit when you’re stocking up on “party supplies” or just want to grab a six-pack to enjoy later, but in a time when essential services are threatened by reduction or elimination, bumping up taxes on luxury items, such as liquor, doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea.

To be fair, a tax doesn’t come without downsides. Champaign is surrounded by other towns with cheaper alcohol unaffected by the tax — who’s to say that someone who might normally head to Champaign for alcohol won’t take a detour through Urbana or Savoy to save the extra cash?

While drivers might steer in this direction, we assert that for most of the campus population, the extra 4 percent won’t be enough of a deterrent to keep people from choosing convenience over cost.

When the alternative for non-car owners is hopping on a bus and taking a 45-minute or more round-trip to a cheaper outlet, coughing up the money and heading to the convenience store down the street still looks like the better option.

No tax is ever desirable, but in this case we hope, if passed, this liquor tax will do more good than harm.