Cost of liquor in Dallas County could rise to help those in Drug Court

Published 9:40 pm Friday, May 3, 2013

Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson and District Judge Bob Armstrong have proposed a bill that will create an additional five percent sales tax on liquor sold by entities licensed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that will be collected and used to support the district attorney’s office and the Dallas County Drug Court.

The funds collected within Dallas County will be allocated 25 percent to the district attorney’s office and 75 percent to the Drug Courts.

Armstrong explained that Drug Courts are an effective justice intervention system for treating people with drug addictions in order to reduce drug use, drug crime and ultimately restore lives and reunite families. The Dallas County Drug Courts offer a series of programs to juveniles, adults, families, veterans and those with mental health problems to help break out of a cycle of poverty and dysfunction.

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“But it’s not just a social services program. There are significant teeth in what we do, it’s a really important piece of the puzzle for our community. We are seeing people breaking out of the cycle of drug abuse, substance abuse, poverty and criminal behavior,” Armstrong said, noting each participant goes through multiple drug tests every week. “This is an important thing for our community to reduce crime and to help people succeed. I think a five percent sales tax on liquor — a quarter on a drink — I don’t think many people are going to care if they’re going to get charged a quarter extra on a whiskey drink if it can have this kind of impact.”

Armstrong emphasized the fact that Drug Courts are a proven effective solution to crime and helping the community deal with the substance abusive epidemic.

“It’s a win-win situation. Not only are you making your community a safer place to live in, you are helping people that will help change your community. So they won’t be in that criminal revolving door,” he said. “For me it’s really important that it’s about safety in the community and reducing crime, but it’s also about giving people a real opportunity to get out of the cycle that they’re stuck in.”

Jackson said the monies that allocated to his department would help to continue the services they provide.

“We’ve gone through a lot of budget cuts. For the last four or five years our budget has been cut by the state to the point where we’ve gotten cut $700,000 over the last several years,” Jackson said. “And in order for us to provide the services that we need to provide, we need to come up with some kind of income and this was an opportunity to do a joint venture with Judge Armstrong and myself.”

Jackson said he and Armstrong discussed the proposed tax as a way to receive funding desperately needed to continue the programs they provide for the county.

“Nobody likes any kind of tax, and I understand that,” Jackson said. “But unfortunately this is the way it’s gone with funding, and the court system in Alabama is grossly under funded.”

Darrio Melton, who represents Selma in the 67th District for the House of Representatives said he was the one who introduced the bill to the House.

“The reason why this bill is important, of course, is the DA’s office and the district judge have to support the drug court program,” he said. “What this would do is help serve that program. A lot of times alcohol or liquor is a part of the problem, and since it’s a part of the problem we think it should be part of the solution as well.”

Melton said the majority of the funds gained from the tax will try and cover the cost of the Drug Courts and afford more people to get into those programs, to make people whole so they can be effective citizens in our area.

The bill has already passed in the House and must also pass in the Senate before it is enacted.