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Lawmaker doesn't want beer tax hike to cover costs of tougher OWI penalties

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A state lawmaker who wants more and longer prison terms for drunk drivers is against raising the beer tax to help cover the incarceration costs.

Assembly Republican Jim Ott of Mequon said those who drink responsibly should not have to pay for those who choose to drink and drive.

He says one problem is that the beer tax money goes into the state's general fund. Ott tells the Central Wisconsin Sunday newspaper he would favor higher fines and surcharges for those convicted of OWI.

An Assembly committee held a public hearing last week on Ott's bill to make three and four-time OWI a felony, require a minimum six-month jail term for causing injury by drunk driving, and a mandatory 10-year prison term for killing a motorist while driving drunk.

Critics say the extra prison costs are too high. Corrections' officials say the housing costs for prisoners would rise by $220 million a year -- and another $230 million would be needed for more prison space.

Wisconsin has the 13th lowest alcohol taxes in the country.

Madison Assembly Democrat Terese Berceau has tried and failed for years to increase the beer tax. 

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