Washington brewers protest tax proposal

Amendment that excludes microbreweries from tax a possibility

Feb 13, 2003 - Small brewers in the state of Washington went to the state legislature this week to protest proposals that would significantly raise taxes on beer.


House Bill 1255 proposes to double the tax on selling bottled and canned beer from $1.30 to $2.60 per barrel. The bill would raise another tax imposed on all beer from $2 to $24.36 per barrel. Along with other taxes already in place, brewers estimate they'll pay a total of $31.74 per barrel, an increase from $8.08, if the bill is passed.

"It is very anti-small-business," said Crayne Horton, founder of Fish Brewing Co. in Olympia. "They`re going to pass that price on to the consumer," Horton said.

Brewers estimate the cost of an average $3 pint will go up 57 cents, according to Phil Wayt, executive director of the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. The price of a case of beer from such brewers as Budweiser, Miller and Coors will increase by $3, Wayt said.

Horton said the tax will result in less beer sold in the state, with more people getting their beer in other states such as Oregon, which has an excise tax of $2.60 per barrel, he said.

"If the tax gets much higher ... we could more rapidly get into the situation where tobacco finds itself," Wayt said.

Forty percent of the cigarettes smoked in Washington come from other states, he said, citing a report from the state Department of Revenue. People are buying tobacco products from illegal sources or from other states to avoid the excise taxes, Wayt said.

The tax is aimed at a business that doesn`t make a lot of money in the first place, Horton said. "People don`t do this because they`re earning large sums of money," Horton said. "They do it because it's the love of their lives."

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, introduced the bill in January. The House Finance Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the bill. An amendment is being drafted to exclude microbreweries from the tax, Dickerson`s office said.

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