Make no mistake—we love our Oregon beers. If there’s one reliable friend to keep our mood up during this crappy recession, it’s a tall glass of Amnesia or Hair of the Dog.
But when the folks who brew our ale kick and scream over a proposed beer-tax increase, we must reluctantly put down our pitcher and name those brewers this week’s Rogue.
To recap: State Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Southeast Portland) has a bill that would raise Oregon’s beer tax for the first time in 32 years. At $2.60 a barrel, the current tax is one of the lowest in the nation. Cannon would raise that per-barrel tax to $49.61 and use the $300 million raised to pay for drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment and prevention.
Yes, the new tax would be the nation’s highest. But it’s surely just a starting point for negotiations since lobbyists have crushed similar efforts in years past. Brian Butenschoen, head of the Oregon Brewers Guild, says beermakers want no increase at all.
So, instead of making a good-faith effort to negotiate at a time when the state budget is in shambles, Oregon’s top brewers have waged a PR campaign with a head of foam, serving themselves up as a thriving Oregon industry besieged by big government.
That attitude is pretty rich coming from breweries like Widmer (partly owned by Anheuser-Busch) and Full Sail (which brews three beers for SABMiller).
“We think the beer tax ought to go up,” says Chuck Sheketoff of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. “The argument that it should be frozen forever is ridiculous.”
Cheers to that. And until brewers are ready to pay their share of the state’s tab, make ours a vodka and tonic.