Brewing Beer is Not a Sin

Jeff Alworth

For the past couple weeks or so, Oregon's beer drinkers have been following with anxiety a proposed law to tax their beloved IPAs.  I've been avoiding the temptation to write about it because my sense is that the offending piece of legislation--HB 2461--is really just a starting place.  It seemed prudent to see what emerged before I started protesting too loudly.  Today's front-page story on the Oregonian forces my hand, though.

Very briefly, here's the nut of the issue: Oregon has one of the lowest beer taxes in the country at $2.60 a barrel (a keg is half a barrel).  Every session, Dems eyeball this as a potential revenue target, and every session, they battle to get something passed. Bizarrely, instead of trying to raise the tax modestly, to the national mean of around $8, say, they go for a massive hike.  This year's version would raise the tax to $49.61, a nearly 2000% increase that, unlike last session's proposal, would tax every drop produced, even by Oregon craft breweries. 

Although the language used to promote the bill refers to the hike in terms of a per-beer increase, the effects are far different (even the estimable Janie Har, who wrote today's otherwise excellent piece, falls into this trap).  In the beer ecosystem, a number of groups make a buck off beer--the distributors who by law ferry beer to retailers, and the pubs and grocery stores who sell them to the public.  But this tax targets only breweries, the link in the chain with the smallest margins and least pricing flexibility.  The per-beer increase backers of the bill constantly cite is actually wild-ass guestimate about the downstream costs to the public, not actual data.

There are a number of reasons why this is ill-conceived legislation, but I'll highlight the greatest hits:

It is perfectly reasonable for a state to recoup costs from industry. We tax drivers to pay for roads and smokers to pay for health care.  But nowhere in this bill is any reasonable attempt made to link the potential cost of the activity with the tax.  In fact, the tax pays for things explicitly unrelated to the activity.  There are costs for alcoholism, teen drinking, and traffic accidents related to alcohol.  But how many of these are caused by beer?  And how many of the beer-caused problems are caused by locally-brewed beer?  (One imagines that 18-year-olds are not picking up cases of Ninkasi for their illicit parties.)  And finally, one has to ask the question why the bill targets only one portion in the chain of businesses earning money on beer.

The one thing left to conclude is that this is some kind of moral stand against beer, an intentional effort to damage the industry.  Sinners taxed to reduce the sin, not its cost.   I can't see any other purpose here.  As good liberals, we consider how solutions like taxation will solve certain problems.  This bill has no clear idea what the problem even is, much less what the cause might be.  Worse, the effect would be to crush local business and damage a beloved part of local culture.  I can imagine reasonable ways in which the state assesses the cost of alcohol, determines who's responsible for reimbursing the state for this cost, and decides what a reasonable tax would be.  House Bill 2461 is none of these things. 

Comments

  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    This is the best considered and written post I have ever read on BlueOregon. I wish more people looked at all taxes and proposed taxes in a similar way.

    Well done, Jeff. And this from a non-drinker!

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    Jeff,

    I strongly disagree with your suggestion that Ben Cannon and the other legislators who have put forward this proposal (Rosenbaum, Morrissette, Dingfelder, Dembrow) are taking a moral stance against beer or that the proposal itself is ill-considered.

    I would expect that kind of ad hominem from a industry lobbyist, not from a self-styled progressive.

    The initial proposal is likely a starting point for negotiations that are intended to help backfill a state revenue shortfall that is in the billions and counting.

    The fact that you are poisoning the well on day #1 makes me wonder what your priorities are, and whether you have any real concern for the thousands of people who will be affected by the loss of services and school days that is going to come down on this state like the hammer of the gods in the next biennium.

    Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

  • fred (unverified)
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    One would have to hope that Oregon's lawmakers wouldn't strike to kill an industry (a local industry at that) in the midst of a decession/repression/"economic downturn."

  • BILLB (unverified)
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    J , Well Reasoned and thought provoking. As an avid Micro Drinker [go Lucky Lab] I see the local brewers and servers work hard every day to make a high quality product and experience. If we want to tax 'sins' then lets start with MacDonalds. The health costs of society are often related to over-weight issues.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I agree that the tax is ill-conceived for the reason pointed out by Mr. Alworth: namely, that it's a tax on breweries.

    I will also point out that taxes on alcohol in other countries are commonly far greater than in the US (just as with taxes on gasoline). Whatever....

    I think we all know why this brewery tax is being proposed: because the state needs $$ and there's a lingering mentality of "drinking alcohol is a sin." (And BTW, Sal Peralta is simply wrong about Alworth allegedly engaging in ad hominem attacks on this point. Peralta has an overheated imagination.) Progressives rightly complain about regressive taxes like a sales tax, but this brewery tax strikes me as no better.

    As for me, I'll continue brewing at home ;-)

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I agree that the tax is ill-conceived for the reason pointed out by Mr. Alworth: namely, that it's a tax on breweries.

    I will also point out that taxes on alcohol in other countries are commonly far greater than in the US (just as with taxes on gasoline). Whatever....

    I think we all know why this brewery tax is being proposed: because the state needs $$ and there's a lingering mentality of "drinking alcohol is a sin." (And BTW, Sal Peralta is simply wrong about Alworth allegedly engaging in ad hominem attacks on this point. Peralta has an overheated imagination.) Progressives rightly complain about regressive taxes like a sales tax, but this brewery tax strikes me as no better.

    As for me, I'll continue brewing at home ;-)

  • Ben (unverified)
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    It's not that there is an increase on the table that is the problem. I seriously believe a move from $2.60 to, say, $5.20 might be grumbled about but it would have a better chance of acceptance and would also be looked at in a much, much different light than this kind of overreach.

    Seriously, what's the gameplan here? Ask for a 1900% increase so you can negotiate to 850%, say you met the opposition halfway, and then still end up with triple the tax of any other western state? I really don't think the sponsors thought this through. It feels like they wanted 'x' as a final number and worked their way backward to figure out what kind of increase would be needed for 'x'.

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    Joel - The rhetoric in my previous comment may have been overheated, but this is an issue that we should be heated about. Taking shots from the sidelines at some very conscientious people for trying to figure out ways to address our state's revenue shortfall is highly ill-considered given the realities that we are facing.

    And yes, I do believe that suggesting that people who support this proposal are using the tax code to harm an industry they don't like for moral reasons is ad hominem.

    If anything boggles the imagination, it is Jeff's suggestion that no attempt to link costs associated with drinking right before he cites the things the bill does attempt to address -- alcoholism, drunk driving, and teen drinking. The same is true for his implication that the language of the bill somehow targets small micro-breweries as opposed to all manufacturers.

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    Tom, thanks for the very kind words.

    Sal:

    I strongly disagree with your suggestion that Ben Cannon and the other legislators who have put forward this proposal (Rosenbaum, Morrissette, Dingfelder, Dembrow) are taking a moral stance against beer or that the proposal itself is ill-considered.

    I would expect that kind of ad hominem from a industry lobbyist, not from a self-styled progressive.

    I specifically left names and intentions out of this. You can't really have an ad hom attack without the hom. My comment was based on looking at what the tax is, what it's designed to do, and whom it taxes. I can actually see no rationale except that it's a blunt-force sin tax. I welcome any clarification from the sponsors.

    The initial proposal is likely a starting point for negotiations that are intended to help backfill a state revenue shortfall that is in the billions and counting.

    I noted that in the post.

    The fact that you are poisoning the well on day #1 makes me wonder what your priorities are, and whether you have any real concern for the thousands of people who will be affected by the loss of services and school days that is going to come down on this state like the hammer of the gods in the next biennium.

    This is not day one. Day one was when legislators introduced the bill. I wouldn't have posted this except for the Oregonian piece. In fact, I even resisted the temptation to use next Monday's open hearing (8:30 am, Hearing Room A, Oregon Capitol) as a springboard for mentioning it here.

    My agenda as a fan of Oregon beer has been clear since I started writing about it more than a decade ago. You mention that you're concerned about school days and the loss of social services, but this bill has nothing to do with those. The funds wouldn't go to schools or DHS in any case. This is not a zero-sum discussion. So what's your agenda?

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    The data is overwhelming. Alcohol consumption is a social ill that destroys families and incomes. It brings death and destruction on the highway, divorce and domestic violence at home. Alcohol consumption is at the root of a whole host of disabling and sometimes fatal diseases, from diabetes, cardiovacular disease, to dementia. We all pay a terrible price for the use and abuse of alcohol. This is not about sin, it is about an addictive and incapacitating drug, alcohol. It is only right that alcohol producers and consumers should pay for at least some of the social cost of their actions, in this case, treatment for alcohol addicts. As President Obama said, our challenge is to begin a new era of responsibility, and taxing those who inflict harm on the larger community is right and proper.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Jeff, thanks for the excellent write-up. As soon as I heard of this nefarious scheme to run craft brewers out of the state I was awiting your report. Sal, per usual is dead wrong. By raisding a tax by 2000%, the Oregon legislature is directly attacking a small industry that provides family wage jobs AND a good product.

    If allowed to get away withthis I forsee the brewers simply pulling up stakes and moving across the Columbia ans Snake to friendlier states. Now that would be what should happen if a stupid scheme such as this goes forward.

  • Eric Berg (unverified)
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    Enrolling in a public college is not is not a sin. Fishing and hunting are not sins. Driving a car is not a sin. Recreating in a state park is not a sin.

    Yet the Oregon legislature has raised the cost of doing those and other things many, many times over the past 30 years. The beer tax hasn't been touched.

    I agree a jump to nearly $50 a barrel is excessive. But it's time for brewers, vintners and drinkers (I heart beer) to step up and support a modest and needed increase in the beer and wine tax. How about something along the lines of five cents per serving?

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    Sal says: The initial proposal is likely a starting point for negotiations that are intended to help backfill a state revenue shortfall that is in the billions and counting.

    I'm too a non-drinker - but I agree raising this tax to a level commensurate with other states doesn't seem unreasonable.

    However, the primary reason there is a state revenue shortfall in Oregon is because there's a taxpayer income shortfall. Our Oregon state government finding ever new ways to take more of less is highly ill-considered given the realities we are facing. Many if not most Oregonians are having to tighten their belts - Oregon state government is going to have to do the same (meaning REAL $ reductions in spending - not just reductions in the GROWTH of spending...)

  • DJ (unverified)
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    As soon as talk of beer tax hit the news I began to anticipate another common sense post from Jeff - and he delivered. Jeff makes the case for why this tax is ill-conceived and will damage the craft brew industry.

    The Beeronomics link Jeff provided cites a figure of 5,000 Oregon jobs directly tied to craft brew. Including indirect jobs the figure is far higher...just ask a craft brew professional who it is that grows their hops (hint, OR is the #2 hops producer in the US) or who the owners of Portland's 30 breweries have in their collective 'Rolodex' (electrician...accountant...TV/radio/newspaper ad exec...truck mechanic...event caterer...the folks who maintain the roof...maybe the guy living next to you fighting a foreclosure).

    Unlike Jeff, however, I don't conclude, "that this is some kind of moral stand against beer, an intentional effort to damage the industry." Somehow, Dems long ago convinced themselves that higher taxes are not an impediment to economic development or to attracting business and entrepreneurial risk taking. If Dem legislators are sincere in that belief, then it does not follow that they intend a moral statement or to damage craft brew. This isn't a crusade on their part, it's just a grab for revenue and a glaring example of naivety and unintended consequences.

    Jeff correctly questions the link between craft brew and societal costs. Eliminate all craft brew, and PBR will still be there to maintain the beer related societal woes one might attribute. But sin tax or not, this debate goes far beyond craft brew. Taxes don't discriminate between "sinful and non-sinful" industries, their effective result is the same. Despite what Dem legislators believe, if you want to discourage, hurt, or kill just about anything - taxing it is a good way to start.

    PS: for those who still believe the legislature has alcohol treatment as a priority, please explain why only 5.09% of current Oregon beer, wine and liquor tax net revenues actually are earmarked for mental health, alcohol and drug treatment programs. Source: Oregon Liquor Control Commission Data for the Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Services Account in 2008

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Bill R writes: Alcohol consumption is a social ill that destroys families and incomes. It brings death and destruction on the highway, divorce and domestic violence at home. Alcohol consumption is at the root of a whole host of disabling and sometimes fatal diseases, from diabetes, cardiovacular disease, to dementia. We all pay a terrible price for the use and abuse of alcohol. This is not about sin, it is about an addictive and incapacitating drug, alcohol.

    My glass of beer or wine 2 or 3 times a week is responsible for all that? Jeez Louise. Folks, I'm reluctant to stray into GOP-sounding territory, but good lord, at some point we've got to talk about personal responsibility.

  • Betz (unverified)
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    Jeff, A very well written, and insightful, article. Nice work!

    I am a little bit skeptical about your conclusion, however, that this is just a blunt-force sin tax. I just find it hard to believe that we have some hard-nosed, traditional-valued, prohibitionist legislators proposing these bills. Instead, I think its more likely that legislators are eyeballing the growing defecits and, flailing to come up with something they can tax for cash, start to point at the beer tax - the lowest in the nation. I am at a loss, though, that they somehow thought that a 1900% increase in the tax was considered reasonable. Instead, I think that this might have just been a poorly thought out bill rather than a moral stance against beer and/or "sin" (The implication "beer/alcohol = sin" is highly debatable, so I'm not even going to address it here besides a simple statement of "I disagree").

    Sal, Your concerns about the loss of services and school days are real, although I wonder about the effects that passing this bill would do. Oregon has a very well-renowned beer culture: Portland itself has more breweries than any other city in the world, and has been voted by many newspapers as producing some of the best quality beers around. I believe that the Oregonian article is correct in its statement that a per-barrel tax-hike from $2.60 to nearly $50 would result in layoffs in the industry. I also think it would be very likely that some breweries, or those interested in starting a brewery, might consider neighboring states for their base of business to avoid the tax hike. You sort of pick your poison, so to speak: job and industry losses vs. government service losses. I think of myself as a market-oriented person, and would generally side with the breweries and business-owners on this issue, particularly because, as Alworth points out, the services that the tax would pay for has nothing to do with beer-production at all. In fact, it is just as arguable that those services could be funded via other taxes or cuts elsewhere in government. Hurting the beer industry, IMO, would be a very damaging action for Oregon legislators to do.

    Bill R., I also believe in this new age of responsibility; starting with individuals being responsible for their own actions, and not trying to pass their own problems with controlling their alcohol consumption onto breweries just because they make beer.

  • Scott J (unverified)
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    As always, Jeff's posts are some of the most objective and well thought out, even if I disagree with most of them.

    On this, I agree completely.

    There is a better way to cover the costs of alchohol related problems.

    This bill is nothing more than an jobs transfer bill; transfer of jobs out of state. For brewers like Widmer, that have production facilities out of state, they can simply shift production capacity over time.

    Other brewers will choose to set up shop in Vancouver.

    Finally, does anyone remember what happened when the City of Portland imposed its' tax on venture capital firms?

    They all left and the net tax revenue was a negative outcome from before the tax was put in place.

    People make choices and will not just sit back and take it!

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    Jeff, I want to add my thanks for a great analysis. This is a perfect example of why I read Blue Oregon, because I cannot ever get this quality analysis out of the Oregonian. It is really sad that they are institutionally incapable of doing this.

    Having said that, I believe that we should have a higher tax on beer to help fund government. I say this as an avid micro beer drinker. At the same time I was more than a little astounded at the size of the increase proposed by the legislature. One-third of that would be more reasonable. (A nickle a bottle or $.30 per six pack.) The blow-back of a major tax increase will insure that nothing gets passed or if it does there will be long-term damage to Democrats. A modest increase will be accepted by all but the breweries, their lobbyists, and the anti-government die-hards. In addition, the form of the tax should be done in a way that does not put local brewers at a disadvantage to the national brewers.

    As for the problem of alcohol, I expect that there are very few that drown their sorrows in beer. It takes too long and is too filling. "According to a new study, moderate consumption of beer has more health benefits than red wine. University of Texas Southwestern Dr. Norman Kaplan explained to The Early Show what the findings mean. Kaplan says beer in moderation can deliver protection against heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and dementia."

  • DanOregon (unverified)
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    This bill is like taxing Gortex and trail mix to pay for the rescue operations of people that get stuck on Mt. Hood or lost in the forests.

    Hey!

  • ws (unverified)
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    "Alcohol consumption is a social ill that destroys families and incomes." Bill R

    Add 'excessive' to that phrase, and I'd agree with the statement. This isn't meth or crack we're talking about. Drinking a good beer is not likely to destroy the family. Good beer is already plenty expensive.

    If the morally rigid want to attack beer that contributes to drunkenness and alcoholism, they should go after bland and cheap stuff such as PBR. While they're at it, they should attach a big heaping tax on box wine. Think about that when you pass by your friendly drunk punks sitting outside nearly everyday, spare-changing in front of the Rite-Aid on SW 6th downtown, the proceeds from which they walk directly into the store to buy themselves a box of wine or a couple 12 packs of cheap beer.

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    I don't think drinking is a sin, but it is a luxury and as such is a reasonable place to look for enhancing revenues.

    I agree with Jeff that a tax only on breweries is grossly unfair. Instead, I'd advocate an across-the-board tax increase on every retail sale of alcohol. I find it difficult to believe that even a huge percentage increase--say 25 cents a bottle/glass--would have any impact on consumption. Another quarter a drink would be a $1.00 increase for the price of 4 beers. There's no way that is going to break a whole industry.

    Putting a tax of at least a dime on every bottle, can or glass of beer sold retail is long overdue and I hope the legislature finds the guts to do it. (It would be even better if the money went into the general fund instead of all being ear-marked for treatment programs.)

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    The breweries are the ones that make the beer. Hops do not incur massive social costs. Neither does yeast, and we already tax the distributors and retail stores.

    I find it very hard to believe that a floor will not be placed on this tax, to minimize the harm to either smaller brewers or small Oregon brewers. The Widmer Brothers can hack it, I think.

    I have to laugh at this: "In fact, the tax pays for things explicitly unrelated to the activity. There are costs for alcoholism, teen drinking, and traffic accidents related to alcohol."

    So it pays for things unrelated to alcohol--except for when it's directly related to alcohol? Gotcha.

    The bottom line is that raising excise taxes cuts public health costs and saves lives. Here's a long-term Alaskan study that makes those points. I believe the per-drink (or is it per dollar?) state health cost of alcohol is about $30, dwarfing the $11 cost of cigarettes.

    There are many millions of dollars in public health costs being borne by people who can't afford it--I find their stories more compelling than the pain claimed by beer drinkers, of which I am a loyal member of the club.

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    whoops, didn't close the tag, sorry.

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    And now I lost the link. A long-term Alaskan study indicated when you raise excise taxes on alcohol, you save lives.

    http://opblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/alaskan-study-super-argument-for-oregon-beer-tax-hike/

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    A long-term Alaskan study indicated when you raise excise taxes on alcohol, you save lives.

    TJ, this isn't really relevant. It's beside the point--so much so that it doesn't even appear in the bill. I'm sure you could save more lives by banning alcohol outright. But that's true of cars and cheeseburgers as well. Unless there's a Pigouvian rationale, I'm more than leery of government taxing behavior of which it disapproves.

    For others who have complimented the article, thanks much. It's great to be hear. (I may have to post something really short-sighted and polemical soon so as to drive expectations back down,though.)

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    I propose we pass the tax anyway and let those like Jeff to get a lackey lawyer if they feel victimized by the tax. I get sick of people like Jeff who bitch about how it is hurting them when it seems logical to tax something that you shouldn't be doing anyway. It is not relly hurting you, Jeff, so why bitch about it. Besides, when you make this expensive and not affordable any longer, you eliminate the urge to drink out of boredom - which is why we have a problem with alcohol and any other drugs. People get drunk or do drugs because they are so bored to the point they need something to do with themselves and thier spare time. It is not a desease, it is an act out of boredom. A tax is the only way to keep the item they use for thier bordom out of thier hands by making it unobtainable for them to use. Drinking is not a constructive habit in the first place. By bitching about taxing the alcohol is just encouraging the habit of drinking to fester and become worse than it already is. Just tax it all now and deal with the bitching people who feel slighted in the courts later.

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    I nominate Eric Parker to do the PR for HB 2461. This should really lead all talking points in favor of the bill.

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    "I'm sure you could save more lives by banning alcohol outright. But that's true of cars and cheeseburgers as well. Unless there's a Pigouvian rationale, I'm more than leery of government taxing behavior of which it disapproves."

    That's a pretty big strawman there Jeff--keep the matches away! There's a wide gap between banning products, and regulating their sale, in part to recover social costs associated with their sale. It has much less to do with disapproval than social equity, something which ordinarily I know you're concerned about.

    Why are you leery of government taxing something that costs all of us a shitload of money and misery, in order to recover as many of those costs and reduce that misery as much as possible? Especially when there are no shortage of examples that it WORKS?

    I'm on the side of beer. Yaaaay beer! It's probably top 5 of the best things about Oregon. And I've already said that while I wouldn't oppose some increase in the tax rate affecting all sales, a craft-brewing/small-brewing adjustment is a great idea. We can avoid much of the pain to local brewers and small brewers--and their associated businesses...but even in Oregon that leaves an awful lot of beer that's running on 30 year old rates.

    What I'm more leery of is ending up on the side of the distributor and restaurant lobbies on any issue--they almost never seem to have the state's best interests at heart--nor sometimes even the people you champion in this article and who probably pay nice membership fees to have their interests served by them, sadly.

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    Jeff Would you support an increase to $8.08 / barrel?

    I don't understand the amount of the tax increase, other than relatively easy revenue. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to raise the tax, though. We're in a budget crisis.

    By the way, most misleading comment from the O story has to be this one from Kurt Widmer:

    Kurt Widmer, one of the brothers behind Widmer Brothers Brewing, says the actual tax paid by drinkers will be much higher than legislators claim, after middlemen slice their share.

    "The lie of the 15 cents is that a pint (actually) goes from $4 to $5.50," he says.

    Huh? Kurt needs a refresher in Econ 101.

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    Given the need to revenue, what kind of beer tax would you support, Jeff? I think we all agree the current tax is ridiculously low for a non-essential item. Even without designating money to social programs directly related to alcohol abuse, a consumption tax on alcohol could raise a lot of money without shrinking demand if done right. I think my proposed 10 cents a glass as a consumption tax is a reasonable starting point; I'd be interested in your thoughts to something along those lines.

  • Scott Sanders (unverified)
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    I second that nomination.

    Re: Posted by: torridjoe | Feb 16, 2009 12:29:56 PM ....The Widmer Brothers can hack it, I think.

    The company would probably survive, but when considering the effects of this on his business, such as laying off a number family wage earning employees, I have heard Rob Widmer describe this tax as, "Frightening."

    Not that there is ever a good time to attempt to tax a vital industry out of existence, but especially now, I agree with Jeff that "this is ill-conceived legislation."

    Nice work on this, Jeff.

  • Betz (unverified)
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    @Eric Parker, "It is not relly hurting you, Jeff, so why bitch about it."

    First and foremost, the tax probably would hurt beer drinkers. As Kurt Widmer mentioned in the Oregonian piece, he suggests that the ultimate price might fall higher than congressmen expect - as every particle in the entire beer-economy will need to recoup their expenses from the increased cost the breweries incur because of the tax. Breweries will need to raise prices on their beer to cover costs, distributors will raise prices in ferrying, grocers and pubs will then follow suit to recoup their expenses - it is a ripple effect. I think it entirely plausible to think that the average cost of a pint might increase from $4.00 to $5.50 instead of the proposed $0.20 increase, or however much it is. It has the potential to effect alot of Oregonian beer drinkers, which, I believe you will find, is a majority.

    But more importantly, looking at your statement a little closer reveals a stunning implication - why would anyone feel it the right thing to do to cry foul when government unfairly targets a group of people, even if you don't belong to the targeted group? I find that an incredibly ironic statement to make, this being Black History month and all.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    "What I'm more leery of is ending up on the side of the distributor and restaurant lobbies on any issue--"

    So what.

    Just because they have an attitude, does not mean you have to be timid to encourage that attitude. Just pass the legislation, tell them to bugger off, and let the courts sort it out. We need action - not compromise.

  • Christy Splitt (unverified)
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    This is Christy, Rep. Ben Cannon's legislative aide. The representative in in committee now and has been with school funding advocates most of the day. The Capitol steps were filled with parents and kids today, which I wish were the big news here in the blogosphere. Since he can't respond point by point to Jeff's original post, I thought I would share what we have been sending out to those who have emailed us in opposition to House Bill 2461.

    "Thank you for your email regarding HB 2461, which would increase Oregon's tax on beer in order to fund addiction treatment, recovery, and prevention services.

    Currently, Oregonians pay the lowest tax on beer in the nation. Beer drinkers pay a fraction of a penny on each glass they purchase. To me, a beer drinker myself, 15 cents per beer seems like a fair amount to pay - if that money is earmarked for alcohol and drug related addiction and prevention services.

    In drafting this bill, I chose 15 cents in order to illustrate the need. Measure 57's addiction treatment component is estimated to cost $48 million per bienium. We are currently $137 million short of fully funding addiction treatment and recovery programs - and further, drastic cuts are on the horizon for these programs. I believe a 15 cent increase would have a negligible effect on sales. But recognizing the possibility, I have opened to the door to the beer industry to talk about that amount. Should it be lower? Should it be 10 cents a glass? 7 cents a glass? Should a wine tax increase be included as well? Almost all of the emails that I have received from folks like you agree with me that a fraction of a penny is just not enough. For over 30 years, powerful corporate lobbyists who represent the beer distributors, Anheuser-Busch, and big tobacco, have fought increasing the beer tax at all.

    Many of you have written to me about protecting craft breweries here in Oregon. Again, I am a beer drinker and prefer Oregon beer every time. In the past, beer tax proposals have come with an exemption for microbrews. The Brewer's Guild opposes the tax even with the exemption. I met with a great group of brewers a few weeks ago. I asked them for their ideas about how to increase the tax on beer in a way that protects them. What if we kicked back a tax credit? What if we changed the beer distribution system, which functions in a way that allows for profits to be made off of the tax? I look forward to continuing that discussion with Oregon's brewers.

    HB 2461 is a starting point for a conversation that Oregonians must have. 85% of all property crimes are committed by a drug addicted person. At least 55% of all children taken from their families by the state had a drug or alcohol addicted person in the home. 477 Oregonians died in drunk driving related accidents in 2006. Untreated substance abuse costs Oregon $5.93 billion each year. I support dedicated funding for programs that will help decrease these numbers.

    Your advocacy is important and I appreciate it, even if we disagree on this one. -ben Ben Cannon State Representative - House District 46 www.repbencannon.com"

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    "The company would probably survive, but when considering the effects of this on his business, such as laying off a number family wage earning employees, I have heard Rob Widmer describe this tax as, "Frightening.""

    Where are his numbers? Especially in the craft beer sector, where the market is already middle class and above and where devotion to beerdrinking as an avocation is much stronger than average? I know a five dollar pint in some places doesn't cause me to opt for water now; why after the tax?

    Would he like a 10,000bbl credit on the tax? Would that do it? Are there any answers other than "No" here?

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    "First and foremost, the tax probably would hurt beer drinkers. As Kurt Widmer mentioned in the Oregonian piece, he suggests that the ultimate price might fall higher than congressmen expect"

    Then maybe...just matbe...you shouldn't drink beer at all. If you didn't drink beer, then you wouldn't "suffer".

    Tea is huch healthier anyway, and you can drive home after a nice glass of Tea.

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    You know, Christy brings up an excellent point by posting their reply letter: this was proposed by Ben Cannon. BEN CANNON, for heaven's sake! Doesn't he get a little benefit of the doubt for being reasonable and smart, and likely not crafting a rigid, painful bill for no reason other than moral sanctimony? If you agree the tax is nationally quite low and long out of date, that's the starting point for the discussion. Instead of doomsday scenarios, what's the proper scheme?

    I also hear a subtle difference in a 15c rise, and a rise TO 15c, from a fraction of a penny. On an integer basis there's no difference, but if the rate is increased multiple times within a single cent's worth of tax on a glass of beer, there's a hidden multiplier on the effects. It's not clear from the letter--was the 15c increase the starting point of figuring the impact, or just the per-glass derivation from the per-bbl number?

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    Would you support an increase to $8.08 / barrel?

    and

    Given the need to revenue, what kind of beer tax would you support, Jeff?

    The short answer to Paul's question--yes. And to JV, I'd say that I could, in the spirit of compromise, agree with a small hike. I'd prefer one that exempted the first 100,000 barrels or used some other mechanism that would protect smaller breweries, but I could live with a modest hike. (This may not be the position of the Oregon Brewers Guild.)

    But that doesn't mean I agree with a number of assumptions the backers hold. Brewers already pay thousands of dollars in state tax over and above other businesses. In a state where multinational corporations pay nothing, I find the moral outrage against brewers a little rich. Local breweries are the model of civic-minded citizens, and its in this spirit that they would accept a modest hike. But let's recognize that even now they pay well more than their fair share.

    I also reject the idea that local breweries are much of a drain on society. I think that very few alcoholics rely on expensive microbrew; very few teens are tempted by microbrew; and only a small number of alcohol-related deaths are caused by microbrews. I chafe at the idea that there's a moral equivalency about all alcohol. Local breweries help cultivate an attitude of responsibility toward alcohol; their pubs are family-friendly and don't encourage drunkenness. These aren't the producers of Night Train or cheap gin.

    Finally, if we're all being honest about the costs of alcohol, we have to recognize that modest beer consumption actually benefits the body. Where I find the tenor of the argument turns away from fact and honest disclosure is when this fact is brought up. Unlike cigarettes, which have no redeeming health value, beer is actually good for you. If we're weighing the costs to society and being honest about them, this should be in the picture.

    Which brings me to a comment on Christy's post...

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    I also think it would be very likely that some breweries, or those interested in starting a brewery, might consider neighboring states for their base of business to avoid the tax hike.

    I doubt it. We have local breweries in Portland because there is a strong local demand for what they produce. Lucky Lab can always relocate to Vancouver, but they will lose the litany of the trendy 30-somethings they attract by being in Portland.

    I don't believe that my beloved Golden Valley Brewpub, nor Deschutes Brewery will be leaving McMinville or Bend any time soon, with or without the tax.

    As to this business about how taxes drive companies away...

    My own company is located in Portland, even though we could pay lower taxes by taking the business outside of metro, because that's where our labor force is.

    The point being that taxes are just one of several criteria businesses evaluate when deciding to locate in a community. It is nowhere near as determinative as some folks in this thread -- many of whom have probably never actually run a business -- would like to pretend.

  • edblatch (unverified)
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    HB 2461 is a starting point for a conversation that Oregonians must have. 85% of all property crimes are committed by a drug addicted person. At least 55% of all children taken from their families by the state had a drug or alcohol addicted person in the home....Untreated substance abuse costs Oregon $5.93 billion each year. I support dedicated funding for programs that will help decrease these numbers.

    The quid pro quo between beer and drug abuse, as described in Rep. Cannon's email, seems incredibly dubious to me. The idea to raise taxes seems defensible, but this is a bad way to defend it.

  • (Show?)

    85% of all property crimes are committed by a drug addicted person. At least 55% of all children taken from their families by the state had a drug or alcohol addicted person in the home. 477 Oregonians died in drunk driving related accidents in 2006. Untreated substance abuse costs Oregon $5.93 billion each year.

    Ben, I share your interest in having this conversation, but data like these seem disingenuous at best. Why are you asking Oregon breweries to pick up the tab for property crimes committed by meth users? Your statistic about property crimes is less than useful--it links Oregon beer with crime. If you're going to make that connection, seems like it's incumbent on you to find the data that show it.

    You linking of social harm to Oregon's breweries makes me more than uncomfortable. I mean, you even link them to child abuse. (As a researcher in the field, I know there are no data to support this connection.) Finally, the $6 billion figure is also misleading because the vast bulk of it is missed work days--not something that comes out of state coffers.

    I don't know anything about your discussions with the Brewers Guild or what their position is, but based on these overheated charges, I can understand why they might not be in a mood to cooperate.

    And before everyone comes down on me--yes, Ben rocks. I'm high on Ben, and love that we have a young, thoughtful, progressive like him in the legislature. But sometimes friends disagree. It's not the end of the world.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    One of my good friends is the proprietor of the Side Street. It's a nice little bar off of Belmont. I've talked to him about this and I can assure you that if this passes Kurt Widmer's prediction is going to be a lot closer than Ben Cannon's prediction. 15 cents a beer is a joke. The price always raises by at least $.25. Prices raised around town when the price of hops went up and increased the price of a keg by $5 or so. Imagine the price raises when it goes up by $46 a keg.

    Look, it's businesses all around that will be hurt by this. From the brewers to the places that sell the final product...they're all going to feel this and this is definitely not the time to put a debilitating sin tax on one of Oregon's best industries.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    "85% of all property crimes are committed by a drug addicted person"

    ...and that addiction is started by being bored to the point of doing anything to keep busy. That includes the beer...any beer. They drink beer because they are bored, then repeat until they become addicted. they then go and do the crimes because they need something to do. It's not really an addiction, just a response to someone who need to do something constructive (or unconstructive) with thier spare time.

    Its not as disingenuous as Jeff mistakenly believes.

  • DanOregon (unverified)
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    And its not like barley prices have come down much either. I get some people want to fund projects by making people who partake in specific activity to pay for it. But why not also tax coffee or tea, caffeine is addictive as well. Clearly the state's resistance to a sales tax has tied the legislatures hand. I just hope the Brewer's Guild hosts a "drink in" at the Capitol. Should be fun.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Christy - tell your legislator that as soon as 100% of the existing tax on beer, wine and liquor goes towards substance abuse treatment; the rest of us beer drinkers will engage in a discussion about what is a reasonable amount to raise the beer tax. Until then the answer is a sold no.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    If the morally rigid want to attack beer that contributes to drunkenness and alcoholism, they should go after bland and cheap stuff such as PBR.

    Wow, talk about rank classist snobbery.

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    I'd have to agree that lumping drug abuse in with the social costs of alcohol needlessly inflates those costs. But still..

    "let's recognize that even now they pay well more than their fair share."

    I don't think can really be accurate, given the difference between sales and social costs as studied in places like California.

  • David McDonald (unverified)
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    I suspected that a post about beer would bring out all the brave lefties with their anger and stress. Just don't talk about the impovershed or homeless in our state. You'll be called a "bitchy snark" on Blue Oregon.

  • Huck (unverified)
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    Wow, these comments are rich. Eric Parker, what are you, six? Did you just watch a scary after school special? And how bored must you be to be cooped up posting such drivel? Have you ever had a beer in your life? Teetotalers have no credibility in this discussion, or much else, so please.

    Not one comment about Jeff's point that the tax isn't a bad idea, per se, just badly conceived and less efficient than it could be! If Ben wanted a 15 cent increase, why not tax the pint, rather than the brewer? By taxing the brewer, the cost goes up to the distributor, who then raises the price to the retailer - that's how the 15 cents turns into $1 - because the distributor and retailer have to make a profit percentage.

    Second, (and I can't believe this isn't mentioned) - why would we want to make Oregon products less competitive outside Oregon? Think about all the sales of Rogue to all 50 states? How's that going to look on a New York shelf when only the Oregon beers go up in price? Why would we want to hurt our export market? If the tax were at the retail level, then exports wouldn't be hurt. Why don't we tax grass seed farmers, wineries, timber owners, manufacturers of circuit boards, and fishermen while we're at it?

    Geez people, think about this one - it isn't about 1) the costs of alcohol on society, or 2) about the budget deficit? You deal with 1 by taxing all alcohol at the retail level. You deal with 2 by raising generally imposed taxes, not picking on specific areas. It's about good policy.

    I wrote my legislators about this, and copied it to the sponsors. Cannon's office did not send anything out as they say here. His arguments are valid, but like most of the posts here, just totally miss the POINT! A democracy gets the leaders it deserves. Even a sharp guy like Cannon misfired on this one.

  • Carl Almond (unverified)
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    I'm now convinced that Eric Parker is a gifted satirist working against HB 2461--the alternative is simply too frightening.

  • BCR (unverified)
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    Huck-

    Why do middlemen need to profit on the tax? I can see why they might like to pass along more than 15 cents, but for every additional cent they pass along in profit they risk reduced sales. The market should help figure it out.

    Also, you're misinformed about the bill. The tax would not be applied to beer that is exported from the state of Oregon.

  • ElGordo (unverified)
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    How's the view from up there, Eric? Come down of your moral high horse and tell me how 80,000 people just happen to show up on the waterfront on the last weekend in July because they're bored. How families with young kids pack the Laurelwood and Hopworks every night because they're bored. How a couple dozen people from all walks of life spend Saturday mornings learning how to become BJCP-certified beer judges because they're bored. Or how, for that matter, Trappist monks in Belgium are bored. Or, just continue on - tea in hand - to your monthly meeting of the Christian Womens Temperance Union.

  • ElGordo (unverified)
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    Paul G - Nah, nobody here flunked Econ 101. Just ask Van Havig, president of the Oregon Brewers Guild and possessor of a degree in economics from your esteemed Reed College (a qualification I also possess). He'll tell you that a tax levied at the level of production gets passed through the system and multiplied twice in an industry that makes its money on a percentage basis.

    Say that with all current taxes included, a keg of Ned Flanders Red produced by Van at Rock Bottom is sold to the distributor for $70. Levy the proposed increase of $47/barrel onto a 1/2 barrel keg, and Van now has to charge the distributor $93. The distributor then keeps their 30% markup when selling that keg to the Horse Brass Pub, charging them $121. The Brass, which used to pay $91 for the keg, certainly isn't going to recover that revenue by raising the price of a pint by 15 cents. Their inventory cost just went up 30%, and that pint of Flanders Red that used to cost $4.50 is now going to sell for 6 bucks.

  • Lou (unverified)
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    First of all, I am wholeheartedly shocked and disturbed that there are so many (in satire or not) professed non-drinking liberals who have posted to this strand. If you are going to have the audacity to graciously funnel the hard earned wages of your fellow citizens into government, you should at least have the common decency to deliberate the consequences of your beliefs over a drink now and again. Non-drinking liberals--I truly question the depths of your deliberative capacities. How can you rationally purport to understand the downtrodden masses you seek to save when you are so unwilling to take your own conciousness into the depths of the human condition? You are missing the point. As Mojo Nixon so eloquently states, "We drink to ease the pain of being alive."

    Speaking of pain, Representative Cannon it is about time that you and the rest of your Democratic delegation start putting yourselves through some pain on behalf of the citizens you represent. "Dialogue" about regressive taxation is just plain denial. Its kind of like sitting at the bar all day telling yourself that you are a good husband. Start a "dialogue" about real tax reform and reap the pain of being alive as a Leglislator in 2009. You'll feel better in the end i.e the hangover will come first.

    If you can't seem to get there--which I know you won't at least this year--maybe you should consider raising the tax on marijuana by 2000%---you could even be the one that picked the starting number. Just stay away from my still.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)
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    I was all for the somewhat bipartisan beer tax increase last session. Trouble is, most Republicans wouldn't support a tax increase, even for more state cops (even former state cop Andy Olson opposed it) and most Democrats wanted more money for prevention/treatment.

    Now we have a bill that is all of the latter, which might work in a super D majority. Still, I think the bill might be more sellable with 25% or so for law enforcement. 100 cops were added last session, but, even if they were "locked in" the budget (can't remember what happened), that still didn't do enough to make up for the 100% decrease in troopers since '80 while the population has roughly doubled.

    As for the proposed whopping tax increase, the sponsors defiantly made news. The headline is even on the Drudge Report today. It probably won't sell unless they go down to the national average or a little higher, which I hope succeeds. I admire Ben and the others for putting this back and the table and restarting the debate from last session.

  • Sam Adams tastes funny (unverified)
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    I've always said that bad beer is a sure sign you're travelling in a Socialist Country.

  • Sam Adams tastes funny (unverified)
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    I've always said that bad beer is a sure sign you're travelling in a Socialist Country.

  • Oregon Scot (unverified)
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    I have nothing against a hike in the beer tax, but it should be at the point of sale and apply to Oregon and out of state beers. Say a nickle a bottle maybe dime. Also though wine should also be taxed. THis proposal as it stands reeks of old fashioned elitism with wine being exempt from social evils, but beer not.

  • (Show?)

    first of all, Jeff needs to apologize to Ben and the other legislators for his ridiculous -- and that is the best word here -- assertion that this is a sin tax in the most moralistic manner. this is not only a baseless accusation, it's an insult to Cannon, Dembrow, Rosenbaum, Morisette and Dingfelder, all of whom are proven public servants and caring Oregonians. as i have learned the hard way over time, we get nowhere with this sort of hyperbole.

    second, Jeff, you sound exactly like my 22-yr-old: he's making the same god-this-is-awful noises, and he knows nothing about govt. given how successful the beer industry has been in fighting any increase in the beer tax, getting one thru this year is going to take something more than the usual legislative effort. what better than a "huge" increase? riles folks up, gets people thinking about the issue -- and leaves the legislators a whole lot of wiggle room. did you think $49.61 was a line in the sand?

    Ben's response is typical of the group sponoring this (one of whom is my state Senator, Diane Rosenbaum, and i applaud her for backing this and SR 1). they are willing to catch some hell in order to advance a right course-of-action. we have to increase the beer tax; i love my micros, but i am willing to pay more for the right reasons. and those stated in this legislation (which i've bother to read, and it says nothing about per-beer prices; you might want to differentiate between op-ed and actual legislation, which you did not do in your piece above) are the right reasons. the majority of Oregonians decided we need to start treating those we throw in prison with abuse dependancies; that costs money and that's in short supply thru the General Fund.

    to say "drugs" and alcohol are not connected is ridiculous. how many addicts do not drink? the abuse of alcohol is behind almost every other addiction in one way or another. for beer drinkers to demand special treatment because "we" are the meth heads robbing people's homes (which is what this part of the argument is) is dishonest and inhumane. will i like my beer taking more of my meagre check? no. will i be comforted knowing it's helping people who need real help? damn straight.

    getting het-up in this way (and the Oregonian story was ridiculous, too: "It's beer!...What's next?" poor baby) at this point in the bill's life is naive and counter-productive. Ben Cannon's response should have been Jeff's: the starting point for a larger conversation. i doubt any of the sponors believe for 1 second they'll get the full increase, but they've started a process that can have a lot of good outcomes. they've even touched upon something that should be discussed: the OLCC's monopoly and how that keeps prices ratcheted up. there's a lot we can talk about here, but accusing people's motives and not even discussing the bill accurately is not in the least bit productive.

    very disappointing stuff, Jeff. pure Widmer in quality.

  • Carl Almond (unverified)
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    Unfortunately it has gotten fashionable for too many Oregonians (even those who claim to "love their micros")to bash the Widmers--its seems to stem, in part, from the beer geek assertion that their hefe isn't "authentic," which is a fair enough criticism as far as it goes. But I find it hard to believe that anyone who has visited the Gasthaus in Portland or toured the brothers' facility would still question their commitment to quality and to Oregon. They produce many outstanding beers (try the alt or Babushka's Secret) for anyone willing to look a bit, and they are a first class operation that does Oregon proud. To imply otherwise is weak and careless.

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    HB 2461 asserts that minors account for 15% of beer sales. I doubt that Oregon craft breweries want the profit from illegal sales. And, it’s not difficult for me to accept that my purchase of a craft beer bear the cost of remedying the impact of illegal sales even though the problem is likely with cheaper beers.

    The current levy on beer if indexed to inflation would be more like $10 a barrel and this would be a sin tax since it would go to the general fund. However, the proposal is to fund alcohol and drug abuse treatment. For a product to pay for the societal impact of its use does not seem like a sin tax.

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    first of all, Jeff needs to apologize to Ben and the other legislators for his ridiculous -- and that is the best word here -- assertion that this is a sin tax in the most moralistic manner. this is not only a baseless accusation, it's an insult to Cannon, Dembrow, Rosenbaum, Morisette and Dingfelder, all of whom are proven public servants and caring Oregonians. as i have learned the hard way over time, we get nowhere with this sort of hyperbole.

    TA, you should read through the comments. Upthread, Ben posts a comment linking brewers with drug addiction and child abuse. You want hyperbole, have a gander at that. As evidence of moralism, it's a little hard to refute. As for me, I think I've been quite respectful to the sponsors--whom I of course agree with and suppport on 99% of the issues. Why on earth would I apologize for that?

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    HB 2561 asserts that minors account for 15% of beer sales. I doubt that Oregon craft breweries want the profit from illegal sales. And, it’s not difficult for me to accept that my purchase of a craft beer bear the cost of remedying the impact of illegal sales even though the problem is likely with cheaper beers.

    The current levy on beer if indexed to inflation would be more like $10 a barrel and this would be a sin tax since it would go to the general fund. However, the proposal is to fund alcohol and drug abuse treatment. For a product to pay for the societal impact of its use does not seem like a sin tax.

  • Steve Packer (unverified)
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    HB 2561 asserts that minors account for 15% of beer sales. I doubt that Oregon craft breweries want the profit from illegal sales. And, it’s not difficult for me to accept that my purchase of a craft beer bear the cost of remedying the impact of illegal sales even though the problem is likely with cheaper beers.

    The current levy on beer if indexed to inflation would be more like $10 a barrel and this would be a sin tax since it would go to the general fund. However, the proposal is to fund alcohol and drug abuse treatment. For a product to pay for the societal impact of its use does not seem like a sin tax.

  • (Show?)

    My reading of HB 2461 suggests that the new tax would be levied at the distribution level. This would apply to all beer, whether made in Oregon or imported from elsewhere. It would not be levied on beer exported to other states. The levy would be $.21 per pint, given a 120 pint average from a keg. Opponents suggest that this would result in a price hike of over a dollar for the pub buyer. This can only mean that both distribution and retail are marking up the beer to take a profit on the levy. This is gives a windfall profit of $.79 per pint for distribution and retail. They should be happy.

    One has to consider the effect of a price hike on beer sales before the true impact to the brewers is understood. My last pint of winter ale cost $3.40, a hefty price for a beer but I did pay. The brewer got $.71 of this, the distribution got $.25 and the retailer got $2.42.

    I think there is plenty of room for the channel to pass the tax to the buyer without a extraordinary markup to the estimated $4.40 a pint.

    If sales are reduced by the price increase, distribution and retail can reduce the markup on the levy and still hold traditional profits.

  • (Show?)

    Upthread, Ben posts a comment linking brewers with drug addiction and child abuse. You want hyperbole, have a gander at that. As evidence of moralism, it's a little hard to refute.

    Yikes, Jeff! Did my comment imply that brewers are responsible for drug addiction and child abuse? That was certainly not my intent. My intent was (and always has been) to use this proposed revenue increase to have a conversation about dedicating funding to substance abuse prevention and treatment. And, for the record, here's what I wrote:

    HB 2461 is a starting point for a conversation that Oregonians must have. 85% of all property crimes are committed by a drug addicted person. At least 55% of all children taken from their families by the state had a drug or alcohol addicted person in the home. 477 Oregonians died in drunk driving related accidents in 2006. Untreated substance abuse costs Oregon $5.93 billion each year. I support dedicated funding for programs that will help decrease these numbers.

    I stand by these comments. Beer is great. I drink it regularly. But for some people, it leads to big problems. We all pay the price. The state woefully underfunds substance abuse prevention and treatment. It's not crazy to talk about raising our penny-per-glass tax to provide dedicated funding for those programs.

  • (Show?)

    By the way, the most interesting part of this discussion for me has been the disagreement over economics. Opponents argue that a $0.15 tax will translate into a $1.50 increase at the bar. This claim seems to rely (at least in part) on the idea that the distributor and retailer will mark up the tax on a percentage basis, not just pass it through.

    I find this idea fascinating, and it raises a lot of questions for me. If the price of barley rose tomorrow by $0.15 per drink, would the price of a beer rise $1.50? Don't distributors and retailers worry that if they charge an extra $1.35 (all of which is profit), sales will drop? And doesn't that give them an incentive to limit their price increase?

    Is it customary for businesses to increase their profit margin when their costs go up? If so, $4 gas must have been a boon to distributors.

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    Jeff, since when do you advocate allowing one person to make a scurrilous comment because someone else is making what you think is a hyperbolic one? your theme was moralistic, personal and out-of-line. here's what you accuse Ben, Diane Rosenbaum (my Senator) and the rest of:

    The one thing left to conclude is that this is some kind of moral stand against beer, an intentional effort to damage the industry. Sinners taxed to reduce the sin, not its cost. I can't see any other purpose here.

    that is not very far from what we've been accusing the religious right of for years: using their morality to set policy, and using policy to control behavior according to their religion. "The one thing left to conclude"...? anyone who disagrees with your interpretation of this legislation (which you do not even present accurately) is a step away from the Moral Majority?

    and how does Ben's comment, written after your post, affect what you wrote?

    and, just to remind you, here's what Ben actually wrote:

    At least 55% of all children taken from their families by the state had a drug or alcohol addicted person in the home. ... I support dedicated funding for programs that will help decrease these numbers.

    i fail to see how this is accusing brewers of any damn thing.

  • (Show?)

    Ben, following this ...

    At least 55% of all children taken from their families by the state had a drug or alcohol addicted person in the home.

    ...you wrote this:

    Yikes, Jeff! Did my comment imply that brewers are responsible for drug addiction and child abuse?

    The state takes custody of a child when there's a substantiated allegation of abuse. That's pretty much the textbook definition. So when you argue that HB 2461 is a discussion Oregon must have before introducing that series of stats, you're calling brewers to account for creating child abusers. I don't see any other way to read that.

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    The above response answers your questions/charges, too, TA.

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    Ben --

    I'm very sympathetic to the argument that we should more fully-fund alcohol and drug treatment.

    I'm also very sympathetic to the argument that we should not impose a massive tax increase on a local manufacturing industry that provides family-wage jobs, exports its products (thus importing cash), and - as a bonus - is a cultural icon.

    Craft brewing does not lead to methamphetamine or heroine addiction. I suspect (though cannot prove) that local craft brews also are much less responsible for alcoholism than are out-of-state corporate brews and hard liquors.

    Given the tenuous, at best, connection between the product and the services it funds, I wonder why we're not talking about funding these important programs out of the general fund?

    And if the tax itself is the goal, why not put it into the general fund, where it can fund all kinds of good things?

    In an environment where just about everything is underfunded, why should drug and alcohol treatment go to the front of the line? Why are we making a special case that they should be fully-funded before other worthy programs (like K-12 education) is fully funded?

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    Okay Jeff, I'll bite. You're right, I did imply that there is a link between alcohol, drugs, and child abuse. I'll try to be more precise: alcohol abuse is highly correlated with domestic abuse. Is it the only culprit in these situations? No, of course not, but it is often a contributing factor.

    Hard for me to get from this to "brewers are responsible for ... child abuse." I don't blame brewers for child abuse any more than I blame winemakers for drunk driving or matchmakers for forest fires. I'll reiterate: beer is a great product. For some people, taken in excess, it causes problems.

    I agree with your original post:

    It is perfectly reasonable for a state to recoup costs from industry.

    And it would be neat to determine the proportion of alcohol and drug-related costs that are associated with beer alone.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Now to bed.

  • (Show?)

    um, no Jeff, it doesn't - again, saying something is so, does not make it so. but we'll let it go. no mo'.

  • (Show?)

    Jeez, now I know why you guys spend so long on this stuff. To several of Kari's points:

    (a) HB 2461 applies equally to local and "out-of-state corporate brews." For beers brewed out of state, the tax would be paid by the distributor who brings it into Oregon. So actually, the vast majority of the revenue would be derived from sales of Miller, Budweiser, Coors, etc. (which helps explain decades of well-heeled opposition). Likewise, Oregon brewers would not pay the tax on the beers they export, as those are subject to excise taxes when they arrive in other states.

    (b) For the sake of purity, sure, let's fund these services out of the general fund. I'll nearly always support that principle. But we've got to expand the pie first, and Oregonians have proven pretty resistant to additional taxation. Which is why I, somewhat reluctantly, have followed others in looking to dedicated taxes and fees as a possible source of new revenue. Under this proposal, beer taxes would free up general fund dollars that are currently being spent on addiction treatment.

  • (Show?)

    First, Ben, thank you for participating in this forum. Regardless of where each of us may stand on this issue, it's great to see a legislator actually taking questions and addressing them seriously. More of your colleagues should do the same.

    To the substance:

    I do understand that, like everywhere, the vast and overwhelming majority of beer consumed in Oregon is produced Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing, and Coors. And thus, most of the tax paid would be paid by them.

    That said, you didn't really address why we shouldn't exempt small brewers. I know we can't exempt in-state brewers (as that would be a restraint of interstate commerce), but why not exempt the first X barrels produced?

    Much of the long-term decline in the American middle-class can be traced to the decline in manufacturing. While America is rich in raw materials, too often we ship those raw materials overseas where finished products are produced and then sold back to us.

    In the case of beer, Oregon produces some of the finest beer-making ingredients in the world - the grain, the hops, and even the yeast. (We've also got fantastic water coming off the Bull Run here in Portland.) And our local brewers are taking those raw materials and brewing (i.e. manufacturing) finished products that we sell all over the country.

    Why would we want to target them directly?

    At most, I could understand raising the tax to the national mean - and either exempting small brewers, or dedicating a portion of the funds raised to an Oregon Beer Board (like the Oregon Wine Board), charged with promoting the local industry out-of-state.

    Also, rather than making it a tax levied on the manufacturers (with the mark-up problem), why not make it a tax levied at the point of sale? That's certainly legal and constitutional. (They've had a sales tax in restaurants in Ashland for years.) The only thing that's barred constitutionally are broad-based sales taxes.

    Last thought for the night: Why not tax corn syrup, as suggested by our fellow Oregonian, NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof? It's far more insidious to our health and our environment.

  • over9000 (unverified)
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    This tax stinks of corruption. There's no way they can be so stupid as to try to put this huge increase in, in the middle of a economic crisis. Someone is looking to put small breweries out of commission.

  • DanOregon (unverified)
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    Maybe we should tax milk. Studies have shown that 100 percent of all murderers, identity thieves, inside-traders and litterbugs drank milk as children.

  • DanOregon (unverified)
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    It's worth noting that four of the states with lower taxes on beer than Oregon include Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states with major breweries. This tax is akin to Michigan raising a tax for each car made to make it more in line with Kansas, Alaska or Hawaii.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    Jeff, thank you for a thoughtful post and follow-ups—even though I’m not in agreement with some of your conclusions. I am glad to see you find a smaller beer tax increase acceptable. I would like to address a couple of issues that have come up in this thread: the size of the increase and the impact on Oregon breweries.

    You note that Oregon has one of the lowest beer taxes in the country. There’s some disagreement as to how to compare the numbers, but most sources say we have the 49th lowest beer tax, and when you factor in the lack of a sales tax, we have the lowest effective beer tax in the country. Another salient point here is that the tax has been unchanged since 1977. Whether we should jump in a single move to one of the highest beer taxes is a reasonable subject for debate.

    I have been on the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Programs since 2005, and am currently the vice chair, so I’m a relative newcomer to this issue. I’m told beer tax advocates were wearing “It’s time for a dime” buttons a decade ago. I haven’t talked to those involved in drafting HB 2461 yet, but I suspect the move to 15 cents in this bill was born in part by the belief that the costs of substance abuse justify it and in part by the obstacles to passing any tax increase. (Two years ago, Democrats lacked the three-fifths majority; this time around, there’s the fear of putting forward too many tax and fee increases, especially in a time of economic hardship.) I would be happy with a smaller increase—especially if it was indexed to inflation and we wouldn’t have to go through this fight every two years.

    (A side thought on collateral damage: the Oregon breweries have become strong voices in this debate in recent years. But for most of the time, it’s money from national beer manufacturers that’s helped to keep Oregon’s tax artificially low. Has anyone given thought to how many candidates opposed to progressive values have been elected with these dollars? As Steve Duin put it so memorably, those Hawaii trips weren’t down payments on the future, they were a reward for services already rendered.)

    So why not exempt Oregon breweries? An amendment to the main 2007 beer tax was written to do exactly that. My understanding was it would have exempted every Oregon brewer except Widmer (partially owned by Anheuser-Busch, by the way). The Oregon breweries said they would still oppose the bill because the distributors would tack the increase onto their product anyway. (Perhaps Oregon’s monopoly distribution system, a relic of post-prohibition repeal, would be worthy of its own post. Or better still, legislative scrutiny.)

    Other ideas were floated last session to address the issue. At least some of the microbrew folks suggested a point-of-sale tax, but the legislators I talked to made it clear they didn’t want to open the Pandora’s box of a sales tax. Senator Rick Metsger suggested adding an additional five cents to the bottle deposit on beer, but that idea wasn’t welcomed by those who were crafting the update of the bottle bill.

    Someone earlier in the thread said non-drinkers have no cred on this issue. So yes, let me state that I am a beer drinker, and my first choice is our own local product in Lincoln County, Rogue Ales. I want to see the Oregon brewing industry continue to thrive. But I hope we can also find a way to reasonably recover some of the costs associated with alcohol abuse.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    This is the only example where the control of korporate amerika has been pushed back, with vastly greater consumer satisfaction and benefit as the result. The point of this bill is to reverse that; you don't get to beat the system, even when you do.

    How did I know that that bandwidth wasting turd Parker would be against this? Because he's corporate apologist #1. Anything the fascists want to do is probably for the best, quit whining.

    Idiot Americans, do you EVER talk about the consequences of legislation in ANYTHING other than economic terms? Get ready for black market ale. And what are you going to do to us? This is more screw you, bend over and take it, and if you don't we're going to do violence to you.

    WHEN are you going to think about the constant erosion to societal cohesion that your leg. almost always represents? Has Katrina not taught anyone to worry much more about what all those people with your boot on their neck are going to do when they get the chance to hit back? When you're fighting an angry mob at your front door after a 9.5, tell yourself that it was important to "send a message" back when.

    Why not put Sam in every single post? I haven't seen one piece of new legislation that isn't best understood in terms of butt poking. People like Parker don't even care about this. They just see your pants down around your angles and have to jump on. This isn't about a "sin tax"? Just revenue? Prove it, progressives. Eliminate the dependent tax credit. Children are a hobby. Breeding makes all our social evils worse. Fine. It's a free country; don't tax it, but STOP SUBSIDIZING IT. You keep running society like this and if the constraints come off, their lives will be worthless anyway.

    As for BO, I cannot remember the last subject that had decent debate AND volume posting. The only thing that seems to get people really motivated is when they have something to yell about. Are you capable of thinking for five minutes without getting aroused? I really doubt it.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    BTW, this also is a big screw-you to progressives. I've not met a single, real, progressive, that wouldn't work to unseat ANYONE that votes for this. Period. Regardless of their other votes. Some things just can't be rationalized. The fact that our cowardly lions are seriously thinking about it means that they care not for our votes. Fine. I hope they don't care about us actively working to oust them, either. Hope BO doesn't mind that we will not ever discuss any subsequent leg. these turkeys sponsor, without mentioning this. If Bastille Day were tomorrow, the sponsors of this bill would find themselves in the docket the day after. You kill our foamy head and it's off with yours!

    Get real progressives. You think there might be sanity brought to the hemp laws? You think we could have an industry? This is reality. They are trying to kill the little advance we have made.

    Point of fact: most the beer brewed in the State IS NOT brewed by the big three. Confusing distribution and production. At least exempt "tied houses" like Widmer and McMennamins.

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    Bill, I do think it's possible to raise beer taxes in a way that little damages local breweries. I would like to repeat my comment from way upthread that this issue is suffused with philosophical assumptions, and one reason I and others don't like the idea of a beer tax is because we don't share those assumptions. That caveat aside, and in the spirit of compromise, here's what I'd suggest:

    1. A fair tax hike that isn't 5 or six times the national mean. Raising the beer tax to something like $8 a barrel is consistent with national norms. We don't have to go from having one of the lowest beer taxes to shaming Utah.

    2. An exemption on the first 25,000 barrels to the new hike. Unlike last session's proposal, this is a straight exemption. On the 25,001st barrel, the brewery pays $8. In last session's, the brewery would have had to pay for all the tax up to that point. I think the threshold was 125,000 in that one. The brewery that sold 125,001 barrels would get handed a bill for millions of dollars. This would have effectively restrained the growth of our larger craft breweries. Setting it lower means small breweries get a break, but you still collect the modest tax from the larger breweries.

    The brewers guild wouldn't go for it (they represent craft breweries of all sizes), but it would be good public policy.

    I think supporters of the bill need to take special care to use language that doesn't demonize breweries. This is more a political observation: beer is one of the few things in this state that permeates every demographic and political stripe. Oregonians love their local breweries, and for good reason. They are great businesses, great for the economy (contributing billions annually), good civic citizens, and valuable elements of our local culture.

    Oh, and I don't share the view that non-beer drinkers should stay out of this discussion. It's about Oregon public policy--any resident has full standing in the discussion. I don't have kids, but I certainly think my view about schools is valuable. All voices are welcome, as far as I'm concerned.

  • Oregon Scot (unverified)
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    Jeff, I agree $8-9 dollars a barrel ,plus also tax wine. There is no logical reason to tax only beer and leave out wine. If alleviating problem drinking is part of the aim.

  • Tomas Sluiter (unverified)
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    As head brewer of a small brewery here in Portland I applaud this article.

    Lets put this in perspective of the heart of Portlands beer industry: The local brewpub. My brewpub produced about 1000 BBL of beer last year. And the profit margin is already rapidly diminishing.

    While just two years ago I used to pay around $5.00 a pound for hops, I am now paying $27.00. Grain prices have close to tripled with costs expected to rise. The minimum wage increase has diverted more money to servers (who make more money now with wage and tips than the hardest working brewer)

    Energy costs are rising, transportation costs are rising. Steel costs are through the roof.

    I paid $7,000 in Federal Excise tax last year and $2,600 in State tax.

    Now you expect us to pay $53,000 a year in state taxes?! Its absurd,a nd Jeff is right. This is NOT a good faith attempt to work with an industry that brings 10,000 jobs and much prestige. This is a blatant attempt to money grab, while appealing to emotion that its going to "help kids".

    Heres a raw fact. Alcholics dont drink microbrews. They drink cheap liquor. MadDog, Old Crow...They will drink a hundred Coors before they drink a NW IPA.

    We will be punishing the wrong people. Losing jobs, and seriously hurting an industry that is totally intertwined with oregon culture.

  • Jesse O (unverified)
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    The costs of drunk driving -- 477 Oregon deaths -- have much more to do with the driving part of the equation than the drunk part. It's dangerous to drive around at 40 miles an hour when you're drunk, not so dangerous (to others, at least) to stumble around at 2 miles an hour. (yes, there are drunken pedestrian crashes, and drunken bicycle crashes -- but only a handful).

    We should tax drivers to deal with that part of the social cost.

    And sure, 15 cents is fine regardless. Can someone explain to me how distributors, etc. have additional costs from this proposals, instead of just the breweries? Why do they need to mark up beyond the 15 cents (ok, 1 cent for the breweries to administer it, etc.) but really... why does Kurt believe others will mark up costs (beyond the admitted need to end up at a cost that ends in x.00, x.25, x.50 and x.75...)

  • nigel (unverified)
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    Are there any aspects of our lives that Progressive Democrats think should NOT be taxed, or regulated? I hope this law passes and a riot breaks out. You people are sick, sick, sick.

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    As part of his regular legislative update, Rep. Michael Dembrow (full disclosure: a client of mine) sent out the following statement:

    As some of you may know, I am co-sponsoring HB 2461, which would increase the state excise tax for beer. There has been a lot of media coverage on this issue over the past few days, so I want to clarify a few things and ask for your input. The current tax of $2.60 per barrel has not been increased in 32 years. Several legislators and I have introduced HB 2461 to start the conversation about increasing this tax, to help fund drug and alcohol abuse treatment and prevention programs. It’s important to understand that this piece of legislation is intended as a starting point, and we want to work collaboratively to find a compromise that everybody can live with. The lobbyists for the brewers and beer distributors have done a pretty good job of muddying the waters with a number of extreme claims that have been repeated in the media. Some people have even suggested that the tax would increase prices by as much as $1.50 per pint. Here are the facts: The tax increase, as proposed, is 20 cents per pint. The tax is paid only on beer that is sold in Oregon, and applies equally to beer produced in-state and out-of-state. It is my hope that we can accomplish a moderate increase in the tax. I am not interested in hurting Oregon microbreweries, and I understand that any tax increase like this needs to be done in a careful, deliberative manner. I welcome your thoughts on the issue, and any questions you might have about the bill: [email protected]
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    As for "Nigel"... did you even read Jeff's post or any of the many comments that followed?

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    I have been thinking about this a lot of the past day or two.

    The point I keep coming back to, is that folks are not going to stop drinking beer. They just aren't. I also don't agree that this will shut down the craft beer industry.

    If you take a hard look at this, people who drink craft beer, I am sure, statistically have higher income than folks who drink beer made by the large companies. If that is true, than a $.25 increase probably won't break the bank.

    In terms of this being a regressive sin tax, I am torn. I agree that a cigarette tax is a straight up regressive sin tax that effects the lower middle class and the poor and that it's major goal is to curb smoking which will lead to a decrease in revenue.

    On the other hand, a beer tax may have a better return, because there are more casual drinkers, across all classes, than casual smokers and in the long run, these casual drinkers will continue to pay into the system.

    I can't say where I fall on this issue yet. What would be helpful, would be a projection of how much revenue can actual be raised over time and what sort of increases in the tax will be necessary if consumption begins to take a nose dive.

    The bottom line for me is, if people want their Deschutes Green Lakes, they are gonna pay for it...drink up...

  • Oregon Scot (unverified)
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    Kari, Again why is beer being signalled out for taxation and not wine? Any logical reason?

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    It's even more bizarre in Kentucky:

    http://tinyurl.com/b8dwgs

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    As has been pointed out, this bill is corrupt to the core. Wine hasn't been considered (and won't) because there are strong real estate inteterests involved in the wine industry that aren't involved in brewing. Ditto tourism. That latter bit is a real crime. Portland is between Dublin and Munich in per capita brewpubs, and both those others clean up in tourism off the fact. That Brewvana still must be sought out by lovers of craft brewing is really sad commentary.

    But why expect sanity from Oregon alcohol policy? OLCC isn't a reasonable form of governance (commission), pursuing an outdated mandate, using the basest street-corner-rock-dealer tactics with its vendors and constituents. If you must pass odious laws or criminalize something, how about starting with all the bars and restaurants that sell Oregon craft brew as "imported beer". Not that they call it "imported", but most all say it's "not a domestic", as in "happy hour features domestic beer for $2 glass". "Domestic" now means "yellow, fizzy, crap beer".

    I can drive across the river and sell homebrew out of my trunk at a farmers' market, legally. Why would I want to put up with more stupidity here? How many craft breweries think that way?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Oregon Scot might like to know...

    Oregon's beer tax, one of the lowest in the nation, has not increased since the Carter administration. Or, since Rummy and Saddam hugged it out.

    Beer and alcohol are two of the deadliest drugs known to man... wreaking havoc... and leaving the "nice" beer drinkers to pay for their "not so nice" drinker friends jail and/or hospital bills... or just pay in time... like I did the other day... because the guy behind the counter at Shuck's was so freakin' hung over, he handed me a muffler for a Pinto instead of a Pontiac.

    Social cost: about $20,000,000,000 a year to you and me.

    Come on, Salem. Tax the hell out of it!

    Then, it's time for beer drinkers to grow up.

    Or brew your own!

    Signed, a guy who grew up in a liquor store/bar called Leader Liquors, Chicago, IL.

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    Show of hands, how many have read it ?

    This the most condescending piece of WOD KRAP that I have ever read. Thanks for the heads-up that Representative CANNON, Senators DINGFELDER, MORRISETTE; Representative DEMBROW, Senator ROSENBAUM do not represent my interests one bit. In a nutshell, we haven't raised it since 1977, and malt beverages are hurting society really, really bad. We've been woefully inadequate providing treatment for hard liquor, wine, crack and amphetamines, so, resolved, that malt beverage will cover it.

    Who cares what party anyone that could sign something worded like that comes from? If I ever have the honor of meeting one of these reps, they will have the honor of wearing my spittle.

    This is a wake-up call. If this is the kind of logic that can get a serious hearing, but none of our moonbat ideas are worth the light of day, I have to conclude that there's no point in pursuing change via politics.

  • Lew Bryson (unverified)
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    I'm just a guy in Pennsylvania, a state, like Oregon, that has a very low beer tax (that we're probably going to keep in place). But it occurs to me that if all these programs that this ridiculously large beer tax increase is supposed to pay for are GOOD programs, good for the entire state and population of Oregon...shouldn't the entire state and population of Oregon be paying for them?

    I mean, my man Jeff Frane, who commented just a few minutes ago, is a long-time Portland resident, likes craft beers and bourbons, but he's been no drain on the system, no user of "drug services." Why should he be paying for someone else's costs more than some teetotaler in Eugene? I look at this stuff from outside, and it just makes no sense.

    If the idea is to raise revenues, it can be done more easily by increasing the state sales tax. If the idea is to raise revenues fairly, put it through the income tax. But balancing the budget on beer? Purely unfair.

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    Oooh, Lew said "sales tax"! This is orygun, Lew. We have none.

  • Oregon Scot (unverified)
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    Sid Leader, I am not against increasing the tax on beer( not as much as this proposal) as long as wine is treated the same. There is no excuse for not taxing a stronger alcoholic beverage like wine for recovery programmes but taxing only beer. Discrimination pure and simple. WE all know wine never causes problems which is why we call alcoholics winos!

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    Beer and alcohol are two of the deadliest drugs known to man

    A second nominee for the position of PR man for the bill, in case Eric Parker doesn't want it.

    Lew mentioning sales tax also points out that local taxation should reflect local values. Another way of thinking about this issue is through that lens. Why does Oregon have a low beer tax? Why is Portland the most-breweriered city in the country and Oregon one of the most-breweried in the country? These two things are related: they reflect our values and priorities. Utah has different laws because they have different values.

  • DanOregon (unverified)
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    The idea that since a tax hasn't been increased in 30 years so it "is due," is really small-minded. I'm fairly certain that taxes collected on beer have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. I imagine there will end up being a small increase this time around, perhaps cushioned by an easing of some other regulation. Anyone know what the savings would be if the state dumped the OLCC?

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I don't think drinking is a sin, but it is a luxury and as such is a reasonable place to look for enhancing revenues.

    I guarantee you that a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one containing meat--just try getting your necessary protein input from vegetable sources and you'll quickly realize this--so should we tax meat as a "luxury"?

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    TJ sez: "And now I lost the link. A long-term Alaskan study indicated when you raise excise taxes on alcohol, you save lives."

    Here's a line from the report that TJ links to:

    "Each time the state of Alaska raised its alcoholic beverage tax, fewer deaths were caused or related to alcohol, according to the study that examined 28 years of data."

    So the logical conclusion (Alworth already mentioned this) is to ban alcohol and thus eliminate alcohol related deaths, right?

    ROTFLMAO. Ever heard of the little social experiment known as Prohibition? How did that work out? Lots of lives saved by drinking bathtub gin in a speakeasy instead of distillery products in a tavern or at home?

    I don't have a problem with taxing alcoholic beverages in some fashion, but puhleeze, let's leave off the screwball logic, which is about as compelling as the perennial GOP claim that slashing tax rates leads to increased revenue.

  • Idler (unverified)
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    I'm reluctant to stray into GOP-sounding territory, but good lord, at some point we've got to talk about personal responsibility.

    From the Boston Tea Party to the Portland Beer Party; from "Dont Tread on Me" to "Don't Tread on My Beer." Apparently what one needs to do to make Oregonian Democrats to start thinking like Republicans is to threaten their beer.

    Jeff Allworth, always sound on the subject of beer, is guided by his love for the wine of the grain to see the counterproductive effects of taxation.

    "Drink Freely or Die!"

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Eric Parker sez: "...addiction is started by being bored to the point of doing anything to keep busy. That includes the beer...any beer. They drink beer because they are bored, then repeat until they become addicted. they then go and do the crimes because they need something to do. It's not really an addiction, just a response to someone who need to do something constructive (or unconstructive) with thier spare time."

    I don't know about the imaginary drinkers that Eric Parker seems to have in mind, but I like a glass of beer or wine with dinner occasionally because--wait, this is a shocker--I like the taste. And I shamefully, shamefully confess to the hedonistic pleasure of enjoying the glow that a small bit of alcohol gives me.

    I hope to gawd Parker's truly a satirist. And if not, I hope to gawd he's not in any sort of therapeutic or counseling profession.

    Clearly we need to just sort out the demographics and only tax the brands that are drunk by Republicans. Maybe Nate Silver at 538 can help out with this.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Eric Parker sez: "...addiction is started by being bored to the point of doing anything to keep busy. That includes the beer...any beer. They drink beer because they are bored, then repeat until they become addicted. they then go and do the crimes because they need something to do. It's not really an addiction, just a response to someone who need to do something constructive (or unconstructive) with thier spare time."

    I don't know about the imaginary drinkers that Eric Parker seems to have in mind, but I like a glass of beer or wine with dinner occasionally because--wait, this is a shocker--I like the taste. And I shamefully, shamefully confess to the hedonistic pleasure of enjoying the glow that a small bit of alcohol gives me.

    I hope to gawd Parker's truly a satirist. And if not, I hope to gawd he's not in any sort of therapeutic or counseling profession.

    Clearly we need to just sort out the demographics and only tax the brands that are drunk by Republicans. Maybe Nate Silver at 538 can help out with this.

  • Onefrnk (unverified)
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    If these legislators really cared about treatment programs and not just stealing more money from taxpayers, they would put an even amount of tax on all alcohol sales in the state. Wine, liquor, piss(domestic beer like Bud), and real beer. This is just a targeted tax hike on a minority (real beer drinkers) that the legislators believe will not have the influence to counter this offensive. We beer snobs are being taxed in the hope that we will continue to buy good beer at the same levels to provide the tax revenue. Unfortunately, many of us will be forced to buy Washington beer from Washington (right across the river morons). First they came for the smokers... then the microbrew drinkers... and when they came to tax the ecofriendly organic tofu eaters, there was no one left to help them.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    tax the ecofriendly organic tofu eaters

    Now there's a demographic I'd never even thought of, and I'm part of! HANDS OFF MY TOFU.

  • Jesse O (unverified)
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    Kari- calling this a "massive" tax increase seems a bit misleading, just like the 1900% number.

    I've not thought of 15-20 cents as massive for a long time. Compared to what we have now, sure.

    That said, it seems like there's a lot of agreement we should find a place somewhere between 15 cents per 12oz bottle and the current less-than-a-penny.

  • mrfearless47 (unverified)
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    Most of the arguments against increasing the beer tax are nuts. While I agree that a 1900% increase is a bit of overkill, look what the increase is FROM. There is practically NO tax on beer now. So, why not accept that until Oregon has a sales tax, the Legislature has to go after targeted products. Beer happens to be one of those things that sells well, contributes to alcoholism (note "contributes to", not the "cause of"), contributes to obesity, contributes to public safety problems (hang around the UO after a frat party), and generally is a factor in diminishing public health.

    I'm perfectly willing to pay another 50 cents a pint for beer. This isn't going to kill anyone. The beer lobby wants you to believe that this will destroy the microbrew industry in Oregon. That's bullshit. How many people do you think will stop drinking microbrews if a higher tax is enacted? Raising cigarette taxes hasn't reduced smoking that much. Get real people.

  • Idler (unverified)
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    Another way of thinking about this issue is through that lens. Why does Oregon have a low beer tax? Why is Portland the most-breweriered city in the country and Oregon one of the most-breweried in the country? These two things are related: they reflect our values and priorities.

    If you want less of something, tax it. If you want more of something, subsidize it.

    This is another case of out-of-control spending cutting further into quality of life.

    Beer doesn't cause social problems. People choose to misbehave or not. Why should responsible beer drinkers subsidize irresponsible drug addicts, wife beaters and child abusers?

  • Grant Schott (unverified)
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    If anyone wants to go back to the founding fathers' founding sin tax, here is a good article about the Whiskey rebellion- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Rebellion It was sold as a way to pay down the war debt and lower whiskey consuption, but also ended up taxing the smaller producers more than the big ones. Washington himself was a major producer.

    Maybe we could raise the tax on OR microbrews closer to the national average, while imposing a higher tax on out of state beer.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    Where's the help from all the right wing "I don't like taxes of any kind types" on this subject? "Give Me Beer or Give Me Death!" might be a useful rallying cry. Maybe we could stage a Portland version of the 'Boston Tea Party' although I certainly wouldn't be in favor of wasting even a drop of good beer by dumping it in the Willamette.

    As a beer drinker I could support an appropriate increase in beer taxes in these tough economic times. However, this bill would do damage to our economy in a time when we need the good jobs brewing and related activities provide. This bill doesn't seem to be the appropriate answer for this problem of revenue shortfall at this time in that form.

    As far as the state budget, revenue and drug abusing criminals goes.......... the anti-tax and pro prison ballot measurers that were past have pretty much dictated that we build prisons and put people in them to rot instead of providing treatment. How's that working out for us?

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    Christy writes: "Thank you for your email regarding HB 2461, which would increase Oregon's tax on beer in order to fund addiction treatment, recovery, and prevention services.

    For my part, having the tax dedicated to one specific service makes me more likely to oppose it, not less likely. I don't like dedicated taxes. If the state needs revenue, then raise it. If the state needs to fund addiction services, then fund them.

    But tying Tax A-->Service B is not good publicy, it's just good politics.

    <hr/>

    Garrett writes: Widmer's prediction is going to be a lot closer than Ben Cannon's prediction. 15 cents a beer is a joke. The price always raises by at least $.25.

    With all due respect, 25 cents is a hell of a lot closer to 15 cents than the suggested $1.50 number that Kurt Widmer pulled out of his [email protected]@.

    Huck, a 15 cent tax is just passed along--no one needs to make additional "profit" off of it. The ability for a producer to pass along a tax is dependent upon the price elasticity of demand.

    I have seen NO economic analysis that claims that a 15 cent tax increase allows suppliers to pass along MORE THAN the 15 cents--at most, it allows them to pass along the full amount of the tax, in this case, 15 cents.

    Transforming a 15 cent tax increase into a $1.50 increase in the price of a print presumes a high inelasticity of demand and virtually no price competition. Anyone who has had a pint in Portland, with lots of competition, and then in other states, with a lot less, knows that this is bogus. Good beer is a buck or two less in this town precisely because we have lots of good, high quality brewers competing for our business.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    Paul G--Interesting observation on the economics. I am no expert on the subject, but I have always believed that supply and demand drive prices. I was at a meeting of beer tax supporters in Salem earlier today. One participant recently made a non-scientific but interesting experiment. She purchased six-packs of several different brands at several different stores in Portland, then drove across the river to Vancouver and repeated her purchases. She said the Washington prices were at most a penny or two higher--despite Washington having both a higher beer tax and a sales tax.

    The question of why the wine tax wasn't included in this bill was addressed at the meeting. The answers: the wine tax has been increased much more recently than 1977, and is much more on par with other states' taxes than the beer tax (49th among the states).

    I would like to thank Jeff for his discourse on this subject. It's been passionate but civil. I wish I could say the same for some others on this thread--threatening to spit on legislators? Not only has Representative Cannon participated in this thread, other legislators and their staffs are reading it. Comments like that are a good way to shut down two-way dialogue on the subject here.

  • Oregon Scot (unverified)
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    Bill Hall. Fair enough on wine. But still jumping Oregon from last place in beer tax to way out on top in one leap is rather extreme. Bring Oregon beer tax in line with washington and Idaho and I dont think you will have that much furore. BUt $49 a barrel is a ridiculous starting point. Gets people all hot under the collar making ANY increase harder.

  • Entitlements R Us (unverified)
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    Where's my check at...Barak said he was gonna send me a check?

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    I wasn't part of the process that led to 15 cents as a starting point this time around. What I heard today from some of the veterans of these wars was they've been told in past sessions that 10 cents was unreasonable, 7 cents was unreasonable, 5 cents was unreasonable, so they thought why not go for the moon this time? But there was some additional logic to it (though you and others on this thread may disagree with it): recently, the Addictions and Mental Health Division of DHS released Oregon Speaks, a comprehensive report on the unmet needs for addictions prevention and treatment. The 15 cent tax would be enough to meet the entire need, plus allow redirecting the $114 million in general fund money now going into addictions for other purposes. The point was made (which has shown up in this thread several times) that some people think it's unfair to selectively tax one group, those of us who drink beer, for a general need. The response from one participant was that in an ideal world, everyone would share the burden...but what's politically viable is something else. Whether this bill is viable, the next few months will tell.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Where's the help from all the right wing "I don't like taxes of any kind types" on this subject?

    They're commonly posting here.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    There's nothing moralistic in the tone of the bill? These fine comments sound like your kid that needs to grow up? We need to apologize to a fucking hack? Wow. Have to really recalibrate the ol' T.A. language parser. If that's your perception, I'm not sure I really care anymore how you see those other issues.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    Zarathustra--Are you reading moralism in the preamble? Every one of those statements is documented. We do have the 49th lowest beer tax in the country. It hasn't been raised since 1977. We do have a badly underfunded treatment system. The figures on the economic impacts of substance abuse are from ECOnorthwest, a well-respected economic consulting firm. The figures on underage alcohol consumption are from the Oregon Healthy Teen survey. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of studies, that document the link between higher alcohol taxes and reduced consumption by underage and problem drinkers. Maybe these facts make you uncomfortable, but they are still facts.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    "There are dozens, if not hundreds, of studies, that document the link between higher alcohol taxes and reduced consumption by underage and problem drinkers."

    Thats because it is too expensive to obtain while you're bored - so you go get what is available to you to keep you busy...hopefully something constructive.

    I still think a 'dialogue' on this is a waste of time. Mr. Cannon - just pass it and be done with it. If anyone has a problem, then I would suggest those people look in their phone books for a desperate lawyer who needs work. Since the majority of those complaining have no resources or recourse to obtain a lawyer to persue this 'societal slight' of a beer tax, then we shouldn't worry about the so called 'reprocussions' of a tax on beer.

  • Tomas Sluiter (unverified)
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    A few things...I see this has become a debate on morality rather than a discussion about reasonable taxation.

    Also Jeff is right in questioning the motivations of this legislature, as proved by those here who feel that alcohol is "destructive and sinful" Its not an ad hominem to point out that this bill goes way beyond any good faith legislation to address a tax raise in a fair way that won’t hurt local breweries and lose jobs.

    Now, let’s look at actual costs. All day yesterday on the morning show on AM 620, they kept saying "16 cents a pint". This is inaccurate, according to their math; it would be .16 for a 12 ounce glass. As we all know a pint is 16 ounces. So it is .20 a pint...But even that’s not the real world.

    Taking in consideration pitcher sales, the 18 oz pints that many brewpubs use, the usual 10% loss from foaming, wastage, and the occasional send back and comp…that cost easily goes up to .50 to $1.00. This will push pint costs to $5.00 or more. And it will affect sales and will cost jobs and production.

    Already with hop costs at an all time high (four times what they cost just a few years ago), Grain costs doubling, energy costs going up, labor costs going up, and steel costs alarmingly high..this will hurt local business and will cause job losses.

    This reminds me of when I went to buy my first new car. My dad told me to not be bamboozled by the "cost per month" that the car salesman would try to keep pushing. while Its their technique to avoid discussing the real cost of the car, and cause buyers to overpay.

    Bottom line is this...Its pretty typical of a brewpub here in Portland to do around 1,000 BBL a year. Currently that’s a Federal tax of $7,000 and State tax of $2,600. Profit margins are modest after paying for those taxes, raw materials, energy and labor.

    Under this bill, state tax would be raised to $52,200 a year! That’s the real number, not the unrealistic and disingenuous number of ".16 cents a pint".

    I’m not opposed to a modest, good faith tax increase. But Id be more open if it weren’t driven by sanctimonious moralists using car salesman techniques

  • (Show?)

    Eric Parker:

    I still think a 'dialogue' on this is a waste of time. Mr. Cannon - just pass it and be done with it. If anyone has a problem, then I would suggest those people look in their phone books for a desperate lawyer who needs work. Since the majority of those complaining have no resources or recourse to obtain a lawyer to persue this 'societal slight' of a beer tax, then we shouldn't worry about the so called 'reprocussions' of a tax on beer.

    Why do you hate democracy?

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    I do not hate democracy. I am just stating the obvious here. Unless you have the money and resources to bring forth those forces to oppose the taxes, you just have to 'buck up' and take it as it comes with the rest of us. Being afraid of those who do not have the resources to execuute thier misgivings and concerns just makes you extremely and unjustly hesitant to do the right thing.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    OK, nobody took me up on my suggestion to tax meat as a luxury--which it is; one can live perfectly well without eating meat--although "tax beer because it's a luxury" seems to have some traction. So let me suggest a few other luxuries that ought to be taxed. I'll then wait for Eric Parker's answer ;-)

    Chocolate: The sugar and fat are clearly sinful. However, given the alleged health benefits of the cocoa component--those antioxidants and all--this tax should obviously be progressive: higher tax on milk chocolate than that 80% cocoa Dagoba bar. This also has the satisfying side effect of being an elitist tax that will make chocolate affordable only to the more discerning of us.

    Potato chips: Fat, fat, fat and salt, salt, salt.

    Speaking of which, we ought to just tax....

    Butter Margarine Salt all vegetable oils other than olive oil

    And then there's popcorn, which is simply another vehicle for salt and fat. The revenues garnered from the tax on butter and salt ought to be directed to heart-disease prevention programs. We should also have recovering saltoholics and popcornoholics giving talks in the schools.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    The connection between the social ills it purports to address and malt craft brewing are not there. Beer abuse is usually with imported megabrews from the big 3 and this bill would wipe out the craft brewers in their favor.

    The state of "addiction treatment" isn't good science, either. The standards are a disgrace. For years administrations have only funded studies that were designed to validate the model, a priori. I hope that when Obama says that it will be science over politics, that includes redressing the years of bias in this kind of research, which this debate demonstrates is a becoming a de facto truth.

    My ire for the legislators stems from the fact that I give them enough credit to know the difference and that it is pure vested interests and cronyism driving this legislation.

  • (Show?)

    "I suspected that a post about beer would bring out all the brave lefties with their anger and stress. Just don't talk about the impovershed or homeless in our state. You'll be called a "bitchy snark" on Blue Oregon." -David McDonald.

    Given some of the posts above, I have to agree with David. The knee-jerk reaction (see above) against any increase in beer taxes is the tax equivalent of "NIMBY." There's a very simple equation here--if Oregon doesn't raise revenues, then Oregon will cut social services. Even if we do raise revenues it is likely there will be cuts and shortfalls the next couple of years. Quit crying in your beers, guys. Or are taxes only good when someone else pays them?

  • (Show?)

    Interesting to see that the chatter continues. JV asks a question that would be a good segue into another important post I should get to writing:

    Or are taxes only good when someone else pays them?

    Actually, I'm super pro-taxes. I'm waaaay to the left of most reasonable people on this one. Most of the kind words for this post would turn negative if I started promoting my ideas for a Swedish-style tax structure.

    But in a word: raise ALL business taxes. Right now, brewers pay more in taxes than many, much, much larger corporations. (Deschutes, for example, paid $220,000 last year in beer taxes--that's in addition to their regular state taxes.) Save your outrage for that inequity before we start whingeing about how long its been since the beer tax got hiked up. Remember when Enron/PGE was paying the corporate minimum of $10 a year? That's a real outrage.

  • (Show?)

    higher tax on milk chocolate than that 80% cocoa Dagoba bar.

    Of course, there should certainly be a surtax added for putting lead in the chocolate.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Of course, there should certainly be a surtax added for putting lead in the chocolate.

    I think they've dealt with that problem.

    It just occurred to me: I recall seeing some sort of high-priced, trendy chocolate bar containing lavender, of all things, at Trader Joe's. Perhaps Dagoba makes this? Whatever. Point is, eating chocolate with lavender represents such a refined sensibility, such an identification with all things--well, French--that there ought to be a tax credit for anyone who buys this stuff.

  • Brewer (unverified)
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    Here are the email addresses for the House Revenue Committee members:

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    Letter

    Here is a sample letter that you can send off to your legislator or send out to your e-newsletter or Blog. Please feel free to add in your own Brewery where it talks about how the tax will affect your brewery.

    Honorable Representative __

    Oregon is in the middle of an economic crisis with a major budget deficit and

    the loss of thousands of family wage jobs. It is during times like this that

    you must provide strategic and smart leadership to turn the economy around.

    It is neither strategic nor smart to raise the beer tax by over 1900%;

    in fact, it would be unwise and harmful to the economy to approve any increase in Oregon's

    The craft brewing industry has been good for Oregon. Oregon breweries directly employ more than 5,200 people at a family wage; 2,300 of those jobs were created in the last 5 years alone. For every 1,000 barrels Oregon brewed beer consumed in Oregon in the past 5 years, more than 30 jobs were created. This green and entrepreneurial industry which is built

    on uniquely Oregon advantages such as our agriculture, people, and lifestyle contributes $2.25 billion to the Oregon economy. It does this without receiving state tax breaks or subsidies while at the same time paying tens of millions of dollars in existing excise taxes for the privilege of being in the beer business in Oregon.

    What does a 1900% tax increase look like - current tax of $2.60 a barrel to $52.21? It would be the single biggest tax increase on beer in history, giving Oregon the dubious distinction of having the highest tax in the country.

    Here is how it would directly affect some of our best known breweries and their tax bills:

    Block 15 Brewing Co. - Corvallis: $1550 to $31,117

    Lompoc Brewing Co. - Portland: from $5,330 per year to $107,030

    Hopworks Urban Brewery - Portland: from $7,857 per year to $157,778

    Ninkasi Brewing Co.- Eugene: from $18,460 per year to $370,691

    Rogue Ales - Newport: from $38,457 per year to $772,238

    Deschutes Brewery - Bend: from $215,990 per year to $4,337,241

    Any tax increase and especially the proposed 1900% increase targets,

    punishes and will ultimately devastate what has been an incredible economic

    success story for the State of Oregon. At this time and in this economy

    do not put more people out of work and harm an industry that is serving Oregon well - which is exactly what a tax increase will do.

    Sincerely,

    Oregon Brewers Guild

  • Mary Sue (unverified)
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    I have this amusing hobby of actually reading proposed legislation and then emailing my representative (I learned in school that this hobby is called 'good citizenship'). I was highly amused by the fact that the first part of the bill, almost half the WHEREASes were about underage drinking and yet, the distribution of this tax has practically no money going to combat underage drinking.

    Which I totally pointed out to my Senator and Legislator. Along with the whole, "ARE YOU HIGH?!?! 1908% TAX INCREASE?!?!" part. And no, I didn't put it in those terms. But that's what I was thinking.

  • (Show?)

    Forgive me if these points have already been covered, but I'm just parchuting in on this voluminous exchange.

    1. The low tax on beer today reminds me of the ridiculously low taxes on cigarettes in tobacco states. Jeff is sooooo right in pointing out that the Legislature's (over)reach exceeds its grasp.

    2. My 19 yo son was home on a visit from college over the long weekend and before he left to go back to school dropped off a bottle of his friend's home-brewed Blueberry IPA. He was extremely proud to share it with me. Perhaps a tax this prohibitively high will provide a real shot in the arm for the next generation of home brewers.

  • Mary Sue (unverified)
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    Aw, isn't that sweet! Instead of sending even a form letter reply to my email, Rep. Kopel-Bailey has instead put me on her email Rah-For-Me list! Snarky reply sent, auto-unsubscribe clicked, sending email address flagged as junk.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    And for those of you who have a different view of the situation might consider something along these lines

    Dear Representative:

    I am writing to urge your support for continued discussion of HB 2461, the beer tax increase. Rep. Cannon, the lead sponsor, has indicated that many key features of the bill are open to discussion, including the size of the increase and an exemption for Oregon breweries. To shut down discussion of any potential increase at this point would be a mistake.

    Our addictions treatment system has been badly underfunded for decades. Currently only 25 percent of adults and two percent of youth who need treatment have access to it. The latest information from the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey indicates more than 30 percent of our eight graders consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, 94 percent higher than the national average. Given the proven link between price and consumption by underage and problem drinkers, the issue of raising what is now the 49th lowest beer tax in the country deserves at very least serious consideration.

  • dan (unverified)
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    Its about damn time we start talking about ending the prohibition on marijuana as well

    Why wont anyone discuss this?

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    thanks, Brewer, you make it easier for me to have the Leg support this bill!

    there needs to be an increase, and if the Oregon brewers fight it all the way, or their pal Mark Nelson, then it may end up being that horrific 15-cent increase. how about admitting it's required, jump it up moderately (altho i'd say 15 cents is less than moderate and more like barely) and then bump it up slightly year-by-year? maybe 1900% is too much; 0% is too damn little.

  • realist (unverified)
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    Using the term 15 cents is a lie. .16 is the number divided by a 12 ounce glass.

    Per pint, before wastage and loss it would be .20 and after wastage and loss would likely be closer to .30 and when you consider that not al beer sales are in pints and imperial pints (most actually in pitchers) it rises to .50 and above.

    1900% is not a false way to describe it as that IS EXACTLY THE INCREASE! When taxes are determined just after fermantation it is a 1900% rise in the current structure. With NO EXEMPTION for small struggling brewpubs.

    Its insane and foolish and counter-productive

  • brewer (unverified)
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    It should also be noted that Ive been a head brewer for over seven years in a local brewpub. I have a business model to start my own brewery that is eco-friendly and community minded.

    If this bill passes, I may look elsewhere. Eight years ago i moved from a state that made bad decisions and is left economically devestated. Id rather not see Oregon make similiar mistakes that would drive new business elsewhere.

  • sid (unverified)
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    ta barnhart,

    I doubt you will find any brewer or brewery owner that is against any tax increase. But the 1900% hike is absurd. And if you support this blatant money grab; you are a fool.

  • (Show?)

    The true irony in this whole debate is that the Republicans are sitting back laughing watching lefties go at each other over beer.

    I count among my friends in Portland 3 head brewers and a beer writer. So I have a feel for the industry and culture. I can just about guarantee you that the astounding majority of those involved in this industry are progressive, lefty folks who more often than not choose to do the right thing over profits. Look at the local contributions of the Lucky Labs and Laurelwoods and Amnesias of the world. They hire local folks, they contribute to local causes and they help out when they can. I personally have gotten Bridgeport, Widmer, Amnesia, Ninkasi and Lucky Lab to donate to local causes, campaigns and non-profits generally in the form of food and beer for events! Look at HUB over on Powell, those guys went out of their way to create a Green brewery not just because it was good for business but it was the right thing to do. I wonder how many local subcontractors they hired just to do everything extra that went into recycyling and reusing as much as possible in the remodel.

    My point here is that we are going after "the good guys" and it is fellow progressives doing the attacking. Why? Why this fight now? What do we possibly stand to gain by doing this other than a moderate addition to our state coffers, some lost jobs and a whole lot of pissed off folks who just want to make a great product, hire great people and slap the Oregon brand on it.

    Don't get me started on Ben Cannon's ridiculous conflation of drug related property/personal crimes and craft beer drinkers. Do you think we are stupid?

    This whole thing strikes me as about as tone-deaf as the Republicans in Congress patting themselves on the back for voting "no" on the Stimulus while the rest of the country was applauding Obama.

    As a life long Dem I have seen us time and again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and have the uncanny ability to turn and piss on each others legs.

    This strikes me as yet another example of this. Look at this page - 145 comments about this but 7 on the Economic Stimulus bill for Oregon? Pathtic. Thanks Ben and crew.

  • (Show?)

    maybe 1900% is too much; 0% is too damn little.

    Is someone arguing for a repeal of the existing tax on beer? That would be 0 percent, right? We're all pretty much in agreement that beer should be taxed.

    From Jeff's original piece:

    Bizarrely, instead of trying to raise the tax modestly, to the national mean of around $8, say, they go for a massive hike.

  • (Show?)

    Apropos of Charlie's comment and some of the allusions to relative costs throughout the thread, I alert you to a post I did at my beer blog that details beer taxes by state. It's sometimes useful to understand the national context when you're discussing something like this that seems to have no context.

    For those who don't follow links, here's a quickie upshot:

    Twenty-one states have beer taxes of five bucks or less per barrel. Only 13 have taxes over $10 a barrel. Only five are above $20, and three above $30 (though one member of that club, Georgia, jumped more than sixteen bucks to $31 in January).

  • Scott J (unverified)
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    Numerous, erroneous posts, have stated that consumption will stay the same regardless of price.

    Wake up!

    Consumers make choices on many variables; price is one of them.

    I love microbrews. As prices have risen from the typical $6.50/6pack to $7.99, I've consumed markedly less.

    Like the vast majority of the population, I don't have an unlimited piggy bank and I must make choices. Rather than drinking the same volume of a lower quality beer, I simply drink about 1/3rd to 1/2 less than I used to.

    Jeff is right on; don't kill one of the strong industries in Oregon. Haven't we done enough of that already?

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    ...maybe that turned the bold off...

    Posted by: Zarathustra | Feb 18, 2009 1:09:47 AM

    There's nothing moralistic in the tone of the bill? These fine comments sound like your kid that needs to grow up? We need to apologize to a fucking hack? Wow. Have to really recalibrate the ol' T.A. language parser. If that's your perception, I'm not sure I really care anymore how you see those other issues.

    Unfortunately, the immortal George Carlin is right again!

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Like the vast majority of the population, I don't have an unlimited piggy bank and I must make choices. Rather than drinking the same volume of a lower quality beer, I simply drink about 1/3rd to 1/2 less than I used to.

    Haven't you heard? The WOD propaganda clearly proves that people don't ever adjust consumption based on situational factors. That's why if weed is 10x stronger today, people must get 10x more stoned! They couldn't be smoking less...

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Clearly all the microbrew lovers need to get bumper stickers reading something like "Drink Northwest Beers". I'll continue brewin' my own and watchin' out fer the revenue agents.

  • (Show?)

    Aw, isn't that sweet! Instead of sending even a form letter reply to my email, Rep. Kopel-Bailey has instead put me on her email Rah-For-Me list! Snarky reply sent, auto-unsubscribe clicked, sending email address flagged as junk.

    <h1>1. Jules Kopel-Bailey is a guy.</h1> <h1>2. During the 2008 campaign, he publicly stated that he's against the beer tax. It was a major issue in the campaign.</h1> <h1>3. It's common practice to add legislative correspondents to the legislative newsletter list. After all, someone who writes in surely wants to hear from that representative.</h1>

    Seems to me that you're a bit quick on the trigger.

    [Full disclosure: I built JKB's campaign website, but I speak only for myself.]

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    Regarding Jeff's comment on business taxes and rep. Kopel-Bailey's opposition to the beer tax as regressive and a substitute for real revenue reform: I would love to see some discussion here, and even better, some action in Salem, toward the goal of true revenue reform so we can move away from these horrific up-and-down cycles. I am generally a fan of the Governor, but was very disappointed in him two years ago when he took revenue reform off the table. It will be very hard to address now with everyone in crisis management mode. A golden opportunity was missed then; maybe its still not too late.

  • Bartender (unverified)
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    OK. Just a dumb bartender here. A dumb bartender with questions about some folks' math and basic assumptions.

    First, to Sid who wrote: "I doubt you will find any brewer or brewery owner that is against any tax increase." Please see Brewer's sample letter to legislators. That's clearly what they're asking for:

    "It is neither strategic nor smart to raise the beer tax by over 1900%; in fact, it would be unwise and harmful to the economy to approve any increase in Oregon"

    Re: the latest figures tossed out here most recently by professional brewers. I'm no math whiz, but this isn't rocket science. Tomas Sluiter says:

    "Taking in consideration pitcher sales, the 18 oz pints that many brewpubs use, the usual 10% loss from foaming, wastage, and the occasional send back and comp…that cost easily goes up to .50 to $1.00. This will push pint costs to $5.00 or more. And it will affect sales and will cost jobs and production."

    $49.61 tax per (31 gallon) barrel = $1.60 tax per gallon or 20 cents per pint. If there is indeed 10% waste (which seems high to me - do you really lose 1.5 gallons for every [1/2 barrel] keg? Perhaps...) that brings the tax to 22 cents per pint - not .50 to $1.00 as claimed above.

    (31 gals - 3.1 gals waste = 27.9 gals/barrel. $49.61 tax per 27.9 gals = $1.77 tax per gallon or 22 cents per pint.)

    Rounding up, you can add a quarter to the price of a pint, without dipping into your profit margin one iota. In fact, you make 3 cents per pint.

    Further, I don't see how the % tax is any higher on a pitcher of beer vs. a pint. Of course the total amount of the tax would be higher on a pitcher - there's more beer, duh - but the cost per pint of the tax doesn't go up. You might offer a discounted price on a pitcher vs. what you would pay for each beer separately, but you don't have to discount the tax too.

    If, for example, you get four pints out of each pitcher, you up the price of your pitcher .90 - $1.00 to cover the tax increase. Again, the price per pint of the tax doesn't increase just because you sell the beer by the pitcher instead. And I really doubt many of you would give up your favorite micro brew or travel to Washington just to save a $1 on a pitcher, or a quarter on a pint.

    So, sorry, I really fail to see how the price per pint goes up .50 - $1 in the end. I find it interesting that these imaginary figures are being bandied about now that the false premise that distributors and retailers would add their own profit margin to the tax has been pretty much debunked.

    And that's just draft (keg) beer. No one has addressed here yet the way this tax would shake out for bottled beer. Which seems to me why the legislators might be tossing out the cost of the tax per 12 ounces of beer. One might assume that the additional cost of waste would not be realized, and so even that argument is irrelevant as it pertains to bottled beer. BTW, what percentage is sold by the barrel vs. by the bottle?

    Since all beer sold here, produced here or not, will be subject to the same tax, I don't see how this puts anyone - including local brewers - at a disadvantage. The tax increase will simply be passed on through to the consumer as it always is. Taxes are a cost of doing business, just as labor and materials are.

    That said, I think a 2000% increase is excessive. But what's wrong with a modest increase?

    Oh, that's right. Some of you don't think you should have to help pay for services you don't think you or your ilk will ever use. It's not YOUR responsibility to help pay for treatment for tweakers, winos, and those despicable unwashed masses of "piss" beer drinking rednecks. THEY, of course, are responsible for all the ills alcohol use and abuse inflicts upon society.

    "Heres a raw fact. Alcholics dont drink microbrews. They drink cheap liquor. MadDog, Old Crow...They will drink a hundred Coors before they drink a NW IPA."

    Oh yes, no drinker of the holy micro brew has ever had an alcohol related issue or problem, I'm sure. Raw "facts" indeed.

    Besides being blatantly and unapologetically classist, elitist snobbery, this duplicitous NIMBY attitude is stunning.

    Especially considering most of you saw no problem with smokers financing the cost of children's health care. Again, I'm just a dumb bartender, but how does someone else's smoking affect your child's health and why, by your logic, should they pay for your (or my) kids' health care? Just asking...

    BTW, I fully supported the legislation to increase cig taxes even though I'm a smoker, because I feel it's important - from a societal standpoint - for all people (not just kids, but they're a good place to start) to have access to health care. I'm willing to step up even though I believe everyone should pay for this very vital service.

    Paying taxes is patriotic, remember? We all need to do our part. Yes, it's disgusting and grossly unfair that so many big corporations get by with paying $10 per year in state taxes, while so many of us - local brewers and individuals alike - pay much more. But it's no reason to abstain from all discussion of any other tax increase.

    Seriously, if you can afford $3.75 or more for a pint of beer, another quarter isn't going to kill you. Nor will an extra buck per six pack. You can save more than that by getting your fix at Safeway rather than the corner convenience store, for gosh sake.

    Be thankful you can afford a luxury - and yes, liquor of ALL types is a luxury, not a sin - like a fine pint of a craft micro brew. Many cannot. Families are lined up to get a meager food box of rice, beans, and mac-n-cheese once a month, for God's sake. Get off your high horses people!

    Yeah, just a dumb bartender here. One who, with the recent increase in minimum wage, is allegedly making more with tips than the hardest working brewer, according to Tomas Sluiter.

    Sorry, but when I see those types of talking points being trotted out, I recognize the insidious influence of the Oregon Restaurant Association. I see their legion of powerful lobbyists stepping up to keep things confusing and cloud the discussion with more hyperbole. I gotta agree with Torrid Joe on this:

    "What I'm more leery of is ending up on the side of the distributor and restaurant lobbies on any issue--they almost never seem to have the state's best interests at heart--nor sometimes even the people you champion in this article and who probably pay nice membership fees to have their interests served by them, sadly."

    See! See those greedy servers and bartenders price their poor employers right out of business with their outrageous wage of $8.40 per hour. Golly, after TAXES, I can afford to buy two pints of micro brew - at a cheap place - with what I make in wages in an hour. Not including tip. Whoopee!

    I wonder what kind of employees these poor impoverished brewers commenting here would get if the public didn't supplement our income with tips enough so that we can afford to work for them. Poor babies. Cry me a river.

  • Bugger Me (unverified)
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    We started the new year proud of our mayor and our craft brewing traditions. Let the record stand corrected that, in reality, Portland is not Sam Adams friendly. Let the record stand corrected that Portlanders are no more progressive than the garden variety, know nothing, yell loud, call murder service, rat mongering, crypto-fascist Amerikan. Thinking about moving here for the quality of life? Don't bother. It's going fast. Maybe if we get a few more Californians and Texans and people that couldn't stand living in their state, they can completely remake Oregon in their image.

    We accommodate too much. The newbies are assimilating us.

  • Brewer (unverified)
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    Hey bartender,

    I know what a decent bartender makes after tips and minimum wage.

    Maybe we should levy a tax that directly affects you...Hmmm say a modest tax of 60% of your salary, including tips. After all as a supplier and server of alcohol you must be responsible for all drug addicts and their property crimes.

  • Tomas Sluiter (unverified)
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    When we measure out taxable beer, it’s in a tax determination tank (bright tank). This is before kegging (where there is beer loss) before busy servers and bartenders pour off the heads (beer loss), before spillage..general wastage. And it doesn’t count for overrings, and the occasional sendback. Easily beer costs will rise .50 a pint...A dollar more easily with hops staying high and grain going up.

    What I’m seeing as well is a very tenuous argument linking beer to all drug addiction; and the attempt to pilfer money to fund a drug treatment bureaucracy that has suffered from a statewide poor tax structure.

    Addiction from meth, heroin, crack...So the microbrew industry is expected to be punished for all of the above? This seems more like a general social issue and should be funded from a general tax. (Sales tax anyone?)

    Also I have personally known and seen alcoholics. I have volunteered at 'soup kitchens' and shelters. And the people who need treatment are not sitting at the bar enjoying a Cuvee or a NW IPA. They are looking for the cheapest drink with the most alcohol. Its not elitism to point that out. You sound like the republicans in the last election, with their feigned outrage over Obamas "elitism".

    Furthermore, as I said, I don’t know a single fellow brewer who is against "any" tax increase. And I know more than a few. You would find, despite the talking point that you dug up to quote in your post, that most brewers are progressive-minded, democrats who are in favor of a fair responsible tax.

    This is neither fair nor responsible. This is a symptom of the failure of our leadership for the last decade to create a fair tax structure and unfairly singles out one of the few industries that has been successful.

    Maybe you should try a day on the other side of the taps someday and work some books. Order hops, grain, shovel out a mashtun or two...Work and rework costs to keep the modest profits in line. Then you might have a better more educated perspective.

    Or maybe if this bill passes, Ill quit brewing so I can stand behind a bar, and schmooze for tips. At least Id have a better knowledge to share of the beers than most bartenders.

  • Idler (unverified)
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    See! See those greedy servers and bartenders price their poor employers right out of business with their outrageous wage of $8.40 per hour. Golly, after TAXES, I can afford to buy two pints of micro brew - at a cheap place - with what I make in wages in an hour. Not including tip. Whoopee!

    "Poor me" and "cry me a river" indeed. If you were smart enough to reflect soberly on the effects of taxes on proprietors' ability to provide cheaper product and more jobs maybe you could get a better paying job. Then perhaps you wouldn't be so resentful of the more industrious and enterprising people who already have.

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    Idler is industrious. Good boy. Can you fuck yourself in the asshole until it bleeds? Dignify krap like that with civility and you disrespect your rights and traditions. Given the choice, I'll gladly tell a fucking jerk where to fuck off, and Idler, I've googled all your posts, and your are more of a fucking jerk than Parker or Kar-lock. That's very hard to do. Terry Parker the enviroterrorist, not "we have to stomp on dangerous cultures regardless of what we're labeled" Eric Parker on this thread. So, the craft brewing industry is a part of another dangerous culture? How about you just like stomping on people.

    Sluiter is spot on, and a good Democrat. Better watch out. All these sanctimonious Dem bloggers will get their litmus tests out! Jeff's title was spot on too. Brewing beer is not a sin. All those opposed, have the courage of conviction to say it and quick weaseling around. Say it. Brewing beer is a sin.

  • Mc bar manager (unverified)
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    As a bar manager I know a decent bartender will make around 50K a year after taxes. Full time servers close to that at a busy restaurant or brewpub. Its true the rise in minimum wages has driven down profits for restaurant and brewpub owners. I am already seeing jobs and hours being cut in local brewpubs.

    I know a few brewers presonally and they work incredibly hard, and believe me they dont do that job for the money. Its for the love of the craft.

    And I know for a fact, there is plenty of spillage of beers during a busy shift. Lots of foamage, lots of pouring off of heads to get the beers out quicker.

    Especially during the summer if the cooler warms up a few degrees. Its not unrealistic to see 25% of a keg go down the drain...I think Sluiters point was that the .16 a glass argument is unrealistic. And he is right. It seems like a small number, but not to a brewery who has to now write a check to the OLCC every month for thousands of dollars.

    I hope this bill doesnt pass. I write the checks for the kegs that come into my place and I dont want to charge our customers five or more dollars a pint. With wages going down, and the economy in a slump, this isnt going to help anyone.

    It would have been far more wise for Cannon and Dingleberry to introduce a bill that would have raised it closer to the median of $8.00 a barrel. How many alcoholics have been "driven to drink"?...Well if this passes there will be a new phrase coined, "They drove me to vote republcan". Which is more evil? haha

  • Mc bar manager (unverified)
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    The above comment should read 50 K a year "after tips" not "after taxes"

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    So, tell Rep. Canon to his face. Representative Ben Cannon Details: The Bipartisan Cafe Thursday, February 19th 7 - 8 pm 7901 SE Stark Street

    Looking at his blog/website, this is a real tragedy. I could really have worked for those initiatives and his campaign. Not after reading that preamble again. That's just beyond the Pale.

    PC correct mavens, I've a question. In the "dig up the long lost etymology of a word and accuse the user of being racist" contest, why is "beyond the Pale" acceptable? I've never heard it criticized. Historically, "the Pale" was the area of Ireland under control of the English crown. It basically meant, "living like uncivilized savages, like those heathen Irish that haven't accepted proper, English, civilized behaviour"! Sounds at least as demographically biased and insulting as "gyped", or "snake oil".

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    One follow-up point. As many posters have pointed out, good ale is food, not just alcohol. The studies on addiction that, maybe, reach the .05 level for rejecting the null hypothesis, would say that alcohol isn't a factor in craft beer. It's 95% alcohol free. A really strong ale is only 90% alcohol free. Cannon's meeting at the Bipartisan Cafe provides a good example of why calling it alcohol is insulting and framing a broad phenomenon narrowly. On his website, he links to their pie menu. I don't eat refined sucrose, but if I referred to his indulging "white powder consumption", which accounts for more social ills, it would rightfully be considered rude. It's no different when posters talk about our "alcohol".

    The religion doesn't even work either, the whole sin metaphor. Anymore some mean it literally. The fact is that it's a Victorian concern. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock because it was out of ale and they had to brew more. It was what their kids had for breakfast. Their Puritan kids.

    If the left was as tacky as the right, we'd be comparing the right with radical Islamists. The Suni tradition always looked at malted brewing different from the distillation of alcohol. A good Muslim chef might have had a beer while cooking, but never touch distilled spirits in his life. Now, it has been politicized to the point that it's a litmus test. I don't see any difference with that trend and the one that this bill is characteristic of.

  • Bartender (unverified)
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    Newsflash Brewer: as a supplier and server of alcohol I AM held responsible for all the people I serve and their property crimes. As someone who should be familiar with the OLCC regs and state laws, you should know the financial and professional liability that I - and my employer - share in that respect.

    Idler: Didn't you hear? We bartenders pull down 50k a year! That's pretty industrious and enterprising for someone with no education and so limited a set of job skills, is it not? Seriously though, I'm not resentful of those who make more than I, I'm resentful of those who still claim - despite all the evidence to the contrary - that our indexed minimum wage increases hurt the food and beverage industry. A common - and incorrect - assertion made repeatedly by the ORA.

    Mr. Sluiter: I used your figures of 10% waste in my calculations. That added 2 cents to the cost of a pint. (If that is not correct, what is the amount of waste?) Are you seriously trying to say that "overrings, and the occasional sendback" are going to add another 27 cents to that same pint of beer? How does an overring add costs anyway? To me, an overring is when I mistakenly ring something up on the cash register for more than I've collected. And what's an "occasional sendback" and how would it add so much to the cost of a pint of beer?

    I don't pretend to know the brewing industry, but I do know the bar business. I've worked in this biz for close to 30 years now. I HAVE spent way more than one day "on the other side of the taps" and "work[ing] some books" as bar manager in the past. Yes, I've actually had to "work and rework costs to keep the modest profits in line." That's why I know your figures have been pulled out of thin air. You have provided no basis for fact here and expect us to accept your assertions on good faith.

    I'm not sure where you're seeing the "very tenuous argument linking beer to all drug addiction." Certainly not in my comment. I compared this tax to the proposed one on cigs, noting in particular the also very tenuous argument linking smoking to children's health care. Which progressives here have overwhelming supported (as have I). No one is blaming the microbrew industry for anything.

    Yes, drug and alcohol treatment is "more like a general social issue and should be funded from a general tax." But it's not. At least not sufficiently. Would it make it more palatable to you if the money went into the General Fund bureaucracy and went to treatment - or whatever else they decide to use it for - through that route? You suggest a general sales tax. Explain please how a sales tax won't hurt your industry, but a modest increase in this tax will. Remember most people here - me included - think the 2000% increase used as a starting point in this bill is excessive.

    You say "I don’t know a single fellow brewer who is against "any" tax increase," and criticize the "talking point" that I "dug up" to quote. The quote comes directly from the sample letter to legislators that Brewer posted here in this thread! I'm not making this stuff up, it's right there:

    "Any tax increase and especially the proposed 1900% increase targets, punishes and will ultimately devastate what has been an incredible economic success story for the State of Oregon. At this time and in this economy do not put more people out of work and harm an industry that is serving Oregon well - which is exactly what a tax increase will do."

    So if you're not opposed to "a fair responsible tax," what would you propose? I've yet to hear from any of you what you consider fair and reasonable.

    And, I'm sorry, but your claim that "the people who need treatment are not sitting at the bar enjoying a Cuvee or a NW IPA," is utter b.s. If you think the only alcoholics needing treatment are the ones who want only the "cheapest drink with the most alcohol," you need to get out of your sheltered microbrew pub existence more often. That assertion is elitist nonsense. Alcoholism does not discriminate by economic or social class. I've seen drunks pound Grey Goose, Courvoisier, and NW IPA. It just depends on how much money they've got and their particular preference.

    Finally, maybe you SHOULD try a day on the other side of the taps if you think bartenders make 50k a year by simply standing there schmoozing for tips. And, I might add, if your bartenders are making that much money in tips simply pouring beers, your customer base isn't going to blink at paying another 25 cents per pint.

  • mfpdx (unverified)
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    It amuses me, as a good liberal, to see one of my own hypocritically state on one hand that it's perfectly ok to charge ONLY SMOKERS to pay for all uninsured children [or all "they" can pay for] to have health care [it doesn't go to pay the health bills of the smokers] but it's NOT ok to do so to Brewers and therefore beer drinkers.

    My guess? This person likes beer but does not smoke. I find that is "usually" the way it is.

    I too am against this but I was also against taxing only smokers for the kids health.

    I think that is more consistent.

    Look, if it's not ok for one small group to be singled out, it's not ok for any. Just my opinion.

  • mfpdx (unverified)
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    Bill R: Do you ski or race cars or motorcycles? Do you mountain climb? Do you eat fast food? Do you buy cookies and candy and high fat foods? Do you smoke pot or do prescription drugs? Do you bungee jump? I'm not being flippant or trying to be rude either; really. I just get a bit worried when I see this.

    Be careful when you start saying it is fine to charge others [said usually, because it isn't you]. If one group can be taxed to pay for a larger groups goals, that smaller group could be ANY.......what's your vice Bill? Everyone has one.

  • Chuck (unverified)
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    I've had enough of others trying to push their morality onto the rest of us through the imposition of so-called "sin" or "health" taxes. During the years of alcohol prohibition, I give religious leaders credit because they didn't hide behind rhetoric to voice their opposition for alcohol for religious reasons

    Today, large religious groups fund and back legislation outlawing cigarette smoking in public claiming they oppose it for "health" reasons when in fact it is because they believe their sect considers smoking a sin and they want to "save our souls."

    It is these same moral fascists that want to back raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Oregon is one of the few states that does NOT charge churches property tax. Perhaps, instead of raising the beer tax, we should impose, like most other states, property tax on churches instead. This would generate more revenue for the state than increasing the beer tax.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)
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    Well, this still has steam...or should I say a head?

    Chuck, I for one (and this goes for the many others I know involved in the effort to raise the beer tax) are not doing it for moralistic reasons. I have nothing against the 90 percent or so of the adult population that drinks responsibly. I do have a problem with alcohol abuse and underage drinking and the huge fiscal and human impacts they have. (And yes, microbrewer drinkers are probably in the minority among alcohol abusers. But to think the problem doesn't cross class lines is to deny reality. You will find plenty of upscale folks in the recovery community.)

    I agree with Jeff's earlier point about not demonizing Oregon brewers. I don't want to do that. They are creating good paying jobs and are good corporate citizens. I do have a problem with the national alcohol producers doing everything they can to push youth drinking with alcopops, alcohol energy drinks, and a lot of other things.

    I am sad to see the level of invective some people are aiming at the sponsors of this bill, especially Ben Cannon, who I consider one of the rising stars of the legislature. Please, tell them you think they're wrong, tell them the tax is regressive and that it will hurt an industry that you see as good for Oregon. But please don't crucify them.

    Did anyone read the recent Oregonian editorial on this topic? It showed a level of reasonableness that's been missing from a good portion of this discussion.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    How about, instead of a tax, just make any alchohol related offense a major felony? That's what they do in Canada. In fact, if you have an alcohol related offese here in the US, even if that offense is just an arrest, the Canadian border agents will never let you into Canada for even a simple vacation. Not even if you have a relative in Canada.

    Tax and treatment, or Major felony...your choice.

  • Carl Almond (unverified)
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    Eric--whose choice? This is the very definition of a false dilemma--presenting two equally asinine solutions to a perceived problem and claiming that we have to make a "choice." If you beleve philoshpically in the government's responsibility for "tax and treatment" to deal with all of society's ills, then those taxes should be fair--and once a particular industry is singled out, others better get in line, because there's no putting the genie back in the bottle. As many have noted in this forum, it's only a matter of time before they'll be redefining "sin" or "vice" to encompass something important to you (you've made it clear you have contempt for Oregon's beer industry). As for Canada, you must be thrilled that it's so close--you can pack your bags and be relocated in less than a day. Cheers!

  • Tomas Sluiter (unverified)
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    Bartender, when you say you spent time "on the other side of the taps" does that mean you spent time in the brewery? Did you ever balance the books for the brewhouse? I highly doubt it. If you had, you would know what hops cost these days, what grain costs, what energy costs.

    My numbers weren’t out of line. As I said, if you can understand...follow close now. We don’t pay taxes by the pint. We pay by the barrel at production time. 10% waste is a conservative estimate.

    After typical wastage, spillage and poor pouring technique from lazy bartenders, it is likely more than 10%. And as we continue to watch our bottom line, the costs will go up at least .50 And that’s out of the tap, in-house. For distribution as VanHavig and Kurt Widmer laid out it will be at least that for guest taps and six packs.

    This will result in loss of sales, loss of hours, loss of wages, and a slowdown of one of the few industries that isn't dying in the recession.

    Also, I don’t care that you cut and pasted a line from a form letter circulated by the Brewers Guild, how does that make the statement untrue that all the brewers I know, and if you ask, aren’t against a reasonable increase. But I guarantee all will be against this insane increase.

    And as far as "crucifying" Cannon. He can deal with the backlash of a divisive and stupid bill. If this were to pass, I guarantee you our pubs won’t be against putting an educational blurb on every beer menu, explaining to the customers how much in taxes they are paying per pint; where the bill came from; how they can reach their legislators; and when they are up for election.

    Hers what I think would be fair and reasonable. Raise it to the median. I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at $8.00 a BBL. You dig? Is that as clear as a Bavarian Lager? That would not have been insane.

    One other point. When I mentioned how much bartenders and servers make..It was to point out another factor that brewpub owners have to deal with. I know for a fact that with the latest boost in minimum wage, places are cutting jobs and hours. Revenue is going down, costs are going up across the board. And if you have been a bartender for as long as you say you have, you must be making a decent wage...no? Hmmm

    To see you paint my statement like its class envy, accompanied with your "elitist" comments reminds me more of right wing talking points, and distracts from valid points. Bush-league arguing tactics. It disgusts me to see such insincere, self-righteousness from fellow democrats.

  • Bryan Summerson (unverified)
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    I think Eric posts because he is scared that he might "get bored" and then have to have a beer...yeesh!

  • Andrew P. (unverified)
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    This beer tax debate got me wondering if a state can tax imports to a state? Here are some beer production stats from the Oregon Brewers Guild:

    -In 2007, Oregon breweries produced approximately 860,000 barrels of beer. -Of that total 308,000 barrels were sold in Oregon, or about 11.4 percent of the total beer consumed in Oregon. source

    If ~89% of the beer sold in Oregon is imported to the state, why tax Oregon breweries? Why not tax beer that is imported to Oregon and raise money while giving in state brewers a market advantage?

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