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Beer Today, Gone Tomorrow

Ask almost anyone under 30 about their politics, and chances are that they will confess to being basically apathetic on most issues. Young Oregonians no longer have that luxury, as our legislature now seems poised to destroy all that is great about the state of Oregon. Let’s face it: the reason most of us get through the long, rainy winters, the reason we are able to put up with endless hippe drivel is Oregon’s abundance of high-quality, reasonably priced microbrews. Indeed, if Oregon has a single global claim to fame, it is as the microbrew center of the world, a mecca for all things hoppy, malty and alcoholic. Enter the dour killjoys…

The Register-Guard’s cover story today tells us that Oregon’s delightfully low beer tax of about 3/4 of a penny per 12 oz glass is likely to increase soon to the highest level in the nation, thanks to the new Democratic majority in the state legistlature. And it’s not just going up a little bit either, thanks to state Senator Bill Morrissette (D-Sprfld) who “is working on a draft bill to increase the Oregon beer tax to a total of about 10.5 cents per 12 oz. glass” according to the RG story. Rep. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland) is also quoted as saying “To me, it’s at the top of the list of things to do this time.” Talk about getting your legislative priorities straight.

The justifications for this move seems to be first, that more money needs to be spent on alcohol abuse prevention, and second that the beer tax is simply low in comparison to other alcohol taxes. Former OLCC director Pam Erickson tells us that the wine tax is about average compared to other states, and that the “sale of hard liquor in state-controlled stores generates a reasonable amount of money for the state through markups” but that “the existing beer tax is so low, it’s almost not worth collecting.” Aw, how tragic. Maybe the state’s world-class beer industry would be worthwhile to the legislature if it became a state-managed monopoly just like hard booze… wouldn’t that show Oregon’s micro-death merchants the meaning of responsible citizenship.

Although there is a clause in the proposal that would exempt breweries that produce less than 200,000 barrels per year from the new tax, established not-quite-micros like Widmer and Deschutes produce enough to potentially get hit hard. Ultimately, Oregon microbreweries are some of the most vibrant businesses in our economy, and have huge potential for continued growth, especially in exports. In a globalizing economy, our state needs to recognize that products such as microbrews and Oregon pinot noir are as much part of Oregon’s international branding as timber, salmon and seasonal affective disorder. We urge our state leaders to reject this unnecessary, regressive and short-sighted tax, and rather to celebrate the economic and other benefits of Oregon’s status as one of the world’s premier brewing regions.

  1. […] states like New York, Louisiana, Kentucky and California. While Democratic state legislators are eager to increase taxes on our beer, at least there are many other boozy blessings in our […]

  2. Timothy says:

    My Kool-Aid tastes like bitter almonds…is there something you’re not telling me?

  3. Blaser says:

    Um, I hate to break it to you Ted, but there is no such thing as “free” Kool-Aid, a “free” lunch, and don’t forget the timeless classic, “Freedom Isn’t Free”.

    If you don’t pay that buck o’ five, who will?

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