The nonpartisan right-leaning think tank Tax Foundation mapped out alcohol excise taxes to gauge how heavily each state is taxing booze relative the others.
Maine is almost exactly in the middle of the pack when it comes to excise taxes on distilled spirits, coming in at No. 24 out of 50 states with a tax of $5.79 per gallon.
(The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, whose data was used in the foundation’s map, tallied valorem markup and other expenses to calculate what the group called an “implied excise tax rate in those states with government monopoly sales” — like Maine.)
Maine’s number is higher than Massachusetts, which has a $4.05 per gallon excise tax on distilled spirits, but less than Vermont, at $7.68 per gallon. (New Hampshire, as is so often the case, doesn’t tax it at all.)
Maine’s excise tax on beer of 35 cents per gallon, while admittedly a fraction of the tax on distilled spirits, is higher than any other state in the region. You don’t reach a state with higher taxes on beer until you get as far as Maryland, which hits beer with an excise tax of 49 cents per gallon.
Massachusetts has an excise tax on beer of 11 cents per gallon, while Pennsylvania’s beer tax is just eight cents per gallon.
If you expand your scope nationwide, Maine remains in the top half of all states in terms of high taxes on beer, but comes nowhere close to Bible Belt states like Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, all of which have excise taxes on beer greater than $1 per gallon.
The lowest beer taxes in America can be found in Wyoming, which boasts an excise tax on beer of just two cents per gallon.
Matthew Yglesias, an analyst with the news and data site Vox, wrote that relative state-level taxing on distilled spirits and beer can be explained in some cases by local politics — Tennessee is known for its whiskey distilleries, for instance, so it’s light on the liquors and heavier on the beers — but for the most part lacks any pattern.
“[I]t looks like American legislators as a whole simply aren’t all that thoughtful about how they are designing these taxes,” he wrote. “The mere fact that taxes are levied on quantities of beer or spirits rather than on quantities of alcohol speaks to a failure to really consider the issues in a public health framework.”