The plan would raise an additional $39.5 million per year, on top of the $10 million already collected, according to the Department of Revenue. The new revenue would be used for local substance abuse treatment and prevention programs and law enforcement, much of which would be handed out by the state in the form of grants.
Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin school of medicine and public health, said the extra funding was greatly needed to try to reverse drinking rates he called astonishing.
"Clearly the current system is broken and is not working," he said. "The strongest deterrent to drunk driving is a belief you have a good chance at getting caught. More law enforcement will keep people from getting behind the wheel ... And for those who are caught, we do not have adequate access to evidence-based treatment programs."
His colleague Donna Katen-Bahensky, chief executive officer of University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, said the hospital is seeing more highly intoxicated patients and spending more of its money to care for them.
Lawmakers on the committee seemed skeptical of the plan.
Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, recalled growing up in Manitowoc, where there was a neighborhood tavern nearly every block. On his way to the Capitol on Tuesday, he said he heard a chilly reception to the plan at his local coffee shop.