- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - As part of his budget proposal, Gov. Rick Snyder asked the Legislature for new, increased or extended fees that would raise around $13.9 million in new revenue.

A 50 percent increase in liquor license fees would generate nearly $6.2 million of increased revenue. Most of those fees have not changed since 1976.

The liquor and hospitality industries quickly rebuked the proposal, saying it would unfairly balance the budget on the backs of small businesses.

The appropriations committee chairs leading the budget process in the House and Senate are agreeing with the industries. They are not moving forward with increases for liquor license fees.

Instead, a deal is in the works that would take money from the Liquor Purchase Revolving Fund to support technology upgrades for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission that the fees would have funded.

The Liquor Purchase Revolving Fund receives money from taxes on certain liquor sales in the state, among other money.

Money in that fund has increased as the prices and total sales of liquor increase.

Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said it wouldn’t be fair to raise fees on the liquor industry when it already funds various parts of the state budget with taxes on liquor sales and there is money in the Liquor Purchase Revolving Fund that could be used for the proposed technology upgrades.

“We can’t punish our industry if we are already self-providing. We are doing our part,” he said.

Under Snyder’s proposal, the fee increases would raise $2.6 million to support technology upgrades for the Liquor Control Commission, including new reporting features and the elimination of paper applications, said Jason Moon, spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

It would also add staff to help reduce the application backlog, Moon said.

The remaining money from the $6.2 million would support local law enforcement and other programs.

Justin Winslow, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Restaurant Association, said liquor fee increases are “not the way to find those resources” for technology upgrades.

Winslow said more than 70 percent of the restaurant association members are independent operators, and raising liquor fees 50 percent would especially hurt smaller businesses.

The industry is already bearing its fair burden, he said.

“We are producing substantial amounts of revenue” for the state, he said.

Senate Appropriations Chair Dave Hildenbrand, a Lowell Republican, said he would rather use the increased revenue in the Liquor Purchase Revolving Fund to invest in technology upgrades than raise fees.

House Appropriations Chair Al Pscholka, a Stevensville Republican, said liquor fee increases will not be in any of the fee-related bills being moved through the House.

“We understand the challenges that some of the fee proposals are currently facing, including the liquor license fee,” State Budget Office spokesman Kurt Weiss said. “As we continue to work through the budget process, we look forward to the continuing dialogue with the Legislature and we are confident we will have a strong budget that is ready for signature in June.”

The liquor licensing fee increases are not the only point of difference between the governor and Legislature on the subject of raising additional revenue.

Snyder proposed a 36 percent increase in the air emissions fee. The fee is paid by industries that emit air pollutants and used to keep the state in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. The House is proposing an increase closer to 6 percent.

The House and Senate have more than 100 non-liquor related fee changes to consider from Snyder’s proposal.

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Online:

Review the proposed fee increases in the executive budget: https://1.usa.gov/1G153ET

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