Beer Tax in OR - Robbery!

Legislature considers raise in tax on beer

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 12:01:00 PM EST

Foes and supporters alike poured it on Monday when promoting their side of the latest round of Oregon's years-old debate over the beer tax.

As it has every session this decade, the Legislature is considering a raise in the excise tax on beer makers and distributors. House Bill 2461, given its first hearing Monday, would raise that tax from $2.60 to $49.61 per 31-gallon barrel. The bill's five sponsors include state Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield.

The beer industry representatives who testified emphasized that the increase would push the tax up by 1,900 percent, an increase they decried as a job killer for Oregon's craft brewers and pubs that produce beer and ale on their premises.

Advocates of the increase argued that lawmakers should look at the tax on a per-beer basis. By that measure, it would increase the tax, per 12-ounce serving, from just under a penny to 15 cents. The money raised, $330 million over a two-year period, would go primarily to drug and alcohol addiction treatment, with the rest going to alcohol and drug use prevention programs and recovery support services.

The beer tax in Oregon has been $2.60 per barrel since 1977. Oregon's rate is the 49th lowest. Under the bill heard Monday, it would make Oregon's tax the highest in the country.

While the state's "Beervana" reputation rests with its abundance of locally brewed beers and ales, Oregon craft brewers account for only 10 percent to 15 percent of the beer sold in Oregon, according to Tom Erwin, government affairs and communications director for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The two biggest players in the malt beverage industry here are the biggest everywhere else in the United States: the Belgium-headquartered Anheuser-Busch InBev and Chicago-based Miller-Coors LLC. But those corporations' Oregon distributors and lobbyists did not speak out on the tax proposal during Monday's hearing.

When asked about the proposal, Mark Nelson, a lobbyist for Anheuser-Busch InBev, told a reporter he should interview Kurt Widmer, co-founder of Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., a Portland craft brewery in which Anheuser-Busch InBev has an ownership stake.

Widmer was one of a dozen or so owners of Oregon craft breweries and brewpubs who sought to draw legislators' focus to the smaller, in-state operations that also would be affected by the tax increase.

Juanita Kirkham, an owner of Wakonda Brewing Co. in Florence, said the tax increase "would be the final nail in our coffin." Wakonda would pay $4,080 per year on the same production level that it previously paid $208, Kirkham said. And she disputed that her customers would accept the higher prices.

Kirkham, who also works as an instructor with Lane Community College in a welfare-to-work training program, said she works with students who are overcoming addictions to drugs and alcohol -- typically to cheap beer and liquor, not the kind of craft brew she produces.

"I am very confused on how addiction is the financial responsibility of the craft brewing industry," she said.

Others had no problem seeing the connection.

"The evidence is quite solid. Increasing the price of beer reduces youth drinking," said Anthony Biglan, senior scientist with the Eugene-based Oregon Research Institute. Biglan cited research to back assertions that beyond funneling millions of dollars into treatment and prevention programs, the increased price would deter consumption. And that, he said, would reduce not just adolescent drinking, but also the number of alcohol-related car crashes, diseases, deaths and violence.

Revenue Committee chairman Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, said he will hold another public hearing on the bill Wednesday. To see more of The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright © 2009, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Copyright © 2009, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

Bottomline is increasing the taxes on cigarettes hasn't worked, why are they trying this here and punishing the little guy, again..........

Watch out, they're looking at raising our vehicle tabs. INCLUDING motorcycles.

Arnie's doubling ours. Yippy.

yay! more nanny state. Brought to you by the socialist boogers from Eugene-Springfield mothership. Let's tank another resource of Oregon.

Good thing we can brew our own. Add bootlegger to my list of tricks.

That is a huge tax! In Ohio, whenever they need money for something, the first thing they tax is alcohol and cigarettes. They call it a sin tax. It is how they built the new Brown's stadium among other things. I can't drink anymore due to the pancreatitis, but I can sympathize. I was just thinking yesterday that I sure do miss a cold beer on a hot summer night.

They call it a SIN tax here in WA :lol: Never thought I would pay more for Alcohol then in CA:busted:

Right before I moved out of WA, they taxed SPAM of all things. man did that get a lot of laughs. but they also jacked up the alcohol and ciggy taxes.

everything's going to shit, it seems.

Idaho is looking to raise the sin tax as well... I think almost triple on beer and wine? I don't really drink... which is a good thing as we have state liquor stores here so hard alcohol already costs 2-3x what it did in Nevada.

What about the talk to legalize marijuana in CA to 'save the state budget'? Wouldn't that be wondrously hypocritical? Stoners to the rescue! :lol:

yay! more nanny state. Brought to you by the socialist boogers from Eugene-Springfield mothership. Let's tank another resource of Oregon.

Good thing we can brew our own. Add bootlegger to my list of tricks.


I think I'm gonna try a chocolate porter batch of my own. My parents may come out for the Idaho City race ... would be nice to see them drink something with some actual flavor, lol.

Well, I see a benefit..........

Those who make the "home brewing" kits are gonna make a killing!!!!:lol:

I guess the Oregon legislature has never heard of "belt tightening" or "budgeting on less income".

No drinking, no riding motorcycles...I'd say I'm gonna pay off oall my debt and go buy a plot of land in the middle of now where, but they'll probably quadruple property tax too so I can't afford that either!

Oh well, as long as the top bank executives get their million dollar bonuses funded by our tax dollars, we'll all be okay.:lol:

Funny, George Will wrote about 'sin taxes' in Newsweek recently. His idea is that the only ones who really benefit are bootleggers

This tax irritates me! Oregon is known for it's small breweries that make WONDERFUL beer. This is just going to drive the little guy out of business! So much for helping the economy!

As a beer drinker, this caught my attention and I'd like to point out that this bill penalizes those who are responsible most and benefits those who are not the most.

Funny, George Will wrote about 'sin taxes' in Newsweek recently. His idea is that the only ones who really benefit are bootleggers

It's true when you think about it. Who gets the most out of marijuanna being illegal (besides the police who get grants to track it down?) The guys willing to sell it illegally.

You ladies have got to stop writing thread titles that attract my attention. I'm not supposed to be here... (said in the same falsetto voice as the guys from "Nuns on the Run" in the shower room)

get ready for the buttload of carbon sin taxes in the works, woodstoves, SUVS, motorcycles, ad nauseum--or how about the sin tax on ammo, sure you can keep your promise(sic) of "upholding" the 2nd, but you sure can tax up the ying yang and make ammo cost an arm and a leg and a head and the other arm and leg.

guess I better go to Lowe's and get in my stash of tubing, ball peen hammers, machetes


that chocolate porter sounds awesome jat! I need it right now, I've been in a really bad mood since Tuesday nite.:worthy:

I'll even give you this week's 13 stimulus bux

You guys are lucky. In Ontario 24's go for around $35... And you can only buy it at special "Beer Stores"

And, now they're trying to legalized pot here in Cali, so they collect revenue tax on this too! :lol:

Kris has been interested in home brewing for a while, so maybe we better get our own set up and running before CO follows suit.

good water is everything! we used to bring back water from a spring on Mount Hood where we go riding. The spring was locked up for awhile cuz of bacteria--maybe that's why it was so good(we never got sick;0) absolutely yummy water!!!)

Haha - my memory of home brew was hearing the caps blow off and beer go everywhere while it was aging in the linen closet.....

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