Oregon’s government is thinking about increasing the state beer tax. Taxing cigarettes is one thing, but is a beer tax taking it too far? The Oregonian reports:
The Oregon state tax on beer is less than a penny a glass. It’s among the lowest in the country, untouched in more than three decades and guarded by powerful interest groups. Never before, it seems, has the climate been so ripe to raise taxes on sin. Democrats command supermajorities in both chambers, which means they can increase taxes without Republican votes.
Two-term Rep. Ben Cannon, D-Portland, is the chief sponsor in the House of a bill that would raise the tax on a 12-ounce beer to 15 cents for drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment.
Oregon’s market-small but vocal craft beer makers oppose the bill, arguing that increasing the $2.60 tax on a barrel of beer to nearly $50 would crimp the industry and result in layoffs. 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.
Kulongoski wants to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $1.18 to $1.78, netting about $112 million every two years, most of it for the Oregon Health Plan.
Scott Jantze would be thrilled if somebody – anybody – would price cigarettes so high he wouldn’t buy them. The warehouse forklift driver has smoked for most of his 46 years and he hates it.
“If they were to tax cigarettes really high, that would be the best thing for me to quit,” says Jantze, parked in front of a television at Claudia’s Sports Bar on Hawthorne, crunching on potato chips and drinking from a small pitcher of beer.
But a tax on his beloved Budweiser?
“I got to draw the line on that one.”
Oregon’s KGW News reports that if the measure passes, a pint of beer will cost $6, with a 1,900% tax increase.
If the government is willing to consider a beer tax to fund alcohol recovery programs, why doesn’t it start taxing junk food, too, in order to combat obesity? The beer tax–or a wine tax–just don’t make much sense.