Report: Dane County ranks 2nd for excessive alcohol spending

Taxpayers pay about 40 percent

MILWAUKEE - A new report said abuse of alcohol in Wisconsin costs the state an estimated $6.8 billion a year in health care, lost productivity, crime and premature death.

The report ranks Dane County second in the state for excessive alcohol spending.

The study by the nonprofit organization Health First Wisconsin states excessive drinking burdens the state's businesses, health care system, law enforcement and criminal justice systems -- and taxpayers are picking up more than 40 percent of the price tag.

Public health advocates, law enforcement officials, medical professionals and others joined Health First Wisconsin in reporting its findings at news conferences in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wausau and La Crosse Tuesday.

At the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, a number of doctors and nurses, a judge, and a downtown business owner explained the findings.

"To put that number in context, the entire University of Wisconsin system budget is $6 billion. And Wisconsin spent about $6.2 billion last year to support K-12 funding through the Department of Public Instruction," said Maureen Busalacchi with Health First Wisconsin.

Emergency room and trauma center medical providers gave personal testimony of alcohol-related injuries and deaths.

"Changing our culture is hard. It will be difficult. But the cost to stand idly by on the sidelines is far too great," said UW Hospital Emergency Room Dr. Jeffrey Pothof. "We must demand change, and we must move Wisconsin forward."

The group went on to push state legislators for more stringent underage drinking policies, sobriety checkpoints, and an increase in alcohol taxes.

On a local level, the presenters suggested strong athletic codes for high school athletes, more policies to monitor the density of alcohol vendors in certain situations, and stricter punishment for adults hosting social gatherings with underage drinking.

Sachi Komai owns Anthology on State Street with her sister, Laura. She spoke about the new numbers, voicing her concern for a saturation of bars downtown if the city lifted limits on licensing.


"Imagine if there were even more bars, and State Street became known strictly as a night time entertainment district," Komai said. "If there were fewer reasons for customers to be there during the daytime, would we be able to support the clothing stores, book stores, shoe shops, jewelry stores, and gift stores like mine?"

The organization used a national study of the estimated economic cost of alcohol abuse and Wisconsin's proportion of binge drinkers to reach its findings.

The report showed the amount of excessive alcohol spending in Dane County is nearly 10 percent of the state total. Almost 10 percent of the state's binge drinkers are in Dane County, second only to Milwaukee with 15 percent.

The report said the revenue from the beer tax in 2011 was about $21.3 million, which is less than 31 percent of the total alcohol tax revenue for that year.

To read the full report, click here.

Top counties for excessive alcohol spending:

1. $1 billion - Milwaukee
2. $654.8 million - Dane
3. $366.1 million - Waukesha
4. $318 million - Brown
5. $272.2 million - Outagamie
6. $251.5 million - Racine
7. $214.8 million - Winnebago
8. $198.1 million - Rock
9. $192.7 million - Sheboygan
10. $161.1 million - Kenosha
11. $160.4 million - Eau Claire
12. $157.2 million - Washington
13. $152.4 million - Marathon
14. $118.2 million - Fond du Lac
15. $117.1 million - Manitowoc
16. $113.7 million - Dodge
17. $112.9 million - Walworth
18. $105.2 million - Saint Croix
19. $105 million - La Crosse
20. $100.4 million - Jefferson

Cost of excessive alcohol use per resident:
Dane - $1,341.54
Statewide - $1,198

Alcohol-related deaths (in 2011):
Dane - 98
Statewide - 1,529
Dane percentage - 6.4 percent

Alcohol-related hospitalizations (in 2011):
Dane - 3,706
Statewide - 48,578
Dane percentage - 7.6 percent

Alcohol-related arrests (in 2011):
Dane - 5,824
Statewide - 60,221
Dane percentage - 9.7 percent

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