Lost in the flap over Gov. Kate Brown's decision last week not to push for an increase in beer and wine taxes is the fact that Brown is proposing a small increase—25 cents a bottle—in the price of hard liquor, on which the Oregon Liquor Control Commission holds a monopoly.
Oregon Recovers, the nonprofit that is pushing for the state to fix its nearly last-in-the-nation spending on addiction treatment services, reacted angrily last week when Brown released her proposed budget for 2021-23 without any increase in beer and wine taxes.
"The governor's decision to prioritize the billion-dollar beer and wine industry at the expense of Oregon families is at odds with her previous commitments and will result in a continued increase in alcohol-related fatalities," the group said in a Dec. 3 statement decrying Brown's "poor decisions."
Earlier this year, Oregon Recovers helped convince the Oregon Health Authority to propose large new taxes to raise revenue for the agency. That would have marked the first increases in Oregon beer and wine taxes in decades.
But in her proposed budget, Brown ignored the OHA request and left beer and wine taxes untouched, a victory for Oregon's drinks industry and its downstream sales partners.
Brown's budget, however does include a small bite on drinkers: a 25-cent-per-bottle "surcharge" on the price of each bottle of hard liquor sold in Oregon. That would come on top of an existing 50-cent-per-bottle surcharge the liquor commission approved extending at its Oct. 15 meeting.
The money from both surcharges—which the OLCC expects to collectively raise about $60 million over the next two years—will go to fund agency operations, not to the addiction treatment services Oregon Recovers is championing.