During the session this spring, 41 delegates and eight senators sponsored the tax, but it died in committee in both chambers.
If passed next year, revenue from the tax would fund health care coverage, disability services, substance-abuse treatment and prevention, and mental-health needs.
A December 2009 Johns Hopkins University study reported that in addition to raising an estimated $214.4 million in revenue, the tax would save the state $249 million in alcohol consumption-related costs.
According to the study, the tax would reduce drinking by 4.8 percent, which would "annually prevent 14,987 cases of alcohol dependence, 37 deaths, 13 forcible rapes, 316 assaults, 21 robberies, 67 incidents of severe violence against children and 19 cases of fetal alcohol syndrome."
O'Malley "supports the purpose and objective" of the tax, Abruzzese said, but said that given the recession, the governor has no plans to support tax increases, he said.
But with the endorsement of 87 primary election winners, "support for the alcohol tax is strong," DeMarco said. "The large part of the incoming legislature believes that raising the alcohol tax is a good policy and good politics."
Critics of the proposed tax disagree.
"It's very irresponsible fiscal policy management," said Bruce Bereano, an Annapolis liquor lobbyist. "Economy should be the first priority, not increasing revenues."
Bereano predicted the proposed tax would decrease state revenues by driving business out of state.
In Maryland, the tax on alcohol -- which for liquor has remained untouched since 1955, and for beer and wine since 1972 -- is the same rate as in Washington. In all three categories, the Maryland tax is below the national average.
If the tax in Maryland increases, it could hurt retailers in the counties surrounding the district because people would cross the border for the price benefit, Bereano said.
Barth, who said the main goals of Ehrlich's campaign are "lowering taxes and creating more jobs," agreed with Bereano that the tax would hurt local businesses and possibly restrict employment.
DeMarco disagreed, saying that putting money into health care and community service ventures would help the economy and create jobs.
The Johns Hopkins study supports DeMarco's belief.
The estimated $214.4 million revenue generated from the tax would "undoubtedly create and preserve jobs" in state services such as public safety, education and social services, the study reports.
DeMarco estimated being close to having the support of the 24 senators and 71 delegates needed to pass the tax during the legislative session.
"I think we will have the votes in 2011," DeMarco said.