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Dems scrap raising liquor tax to pay for crackdown on drunken driving

Wisconsin Senate Democrats have scrapped the idea of raising the state's liquor tax to pay for a crackdown on drunken driving.

Instead, they're considering a higher fee to reinstate driver's licenses after they're suspended and revoked.

A Senate committee endorsed a 50-cent tax hike on a bottle of booze. But Assembly leaders balked at the increase and it's held up action on several drunken driving measures the Assembly unanimously passed a few weeks ago.

The Joint Finance Committee delayed the package this week because of the disagreement over the liquor tax.

The panel will take it up again on Tuesday - this time with a higher license reinstatement fee.

Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, is not sure if all drivers would be subject to the increase, or just those convicted of OWI.

Right now, it costs $60 to reinstate a suspended or revoked license.

Joe Volk of the Community Advocates group in Milwaukee said an increase would unfairly hurt the poor.

Meanwhile, Sullivan says it will cost only half as much as expected to adopt the proposed drunken driving reforms.

That's because some people will avoid driving drunk so they won't have to breathe into ignition interlocks to start their cars.

Among other things, the bill requires interlocks for all repeat offenders, and first-timers with blood alcohol levels of 15 or higher.

The bill also makes first-time OWI a criminal misdemeanor if kids are in the vehicle.