Oregon beer and wine producers decry new tax legislation

Organizations representing producers of Oregon beer, wine, and spirits are sounding the alarm about a bill proposed in the legislature that would majorly hike taxes on alcohol.

Posted: Feb 24, 2021 11:42 AM
Updated: Feb 24, 2021 12:08 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Organizations representing producers of Oregon beer, wine, and spirits are sounding the alarm about a bill proposed in the legislature that would majorly hike taxes on alcohol.

House Bill 3296, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Tawna Sanchez and Rachel Prusak, proposes new taxes on beer, cider, and wine.

The bill proposes an additional tax of $70 per barrel of beer or cider and $10 per gallon of wine. The current taxes stand at $2.60 per barrel of beer or cider and 65 cents per gallon of wine, and the new taxes would be added on top of those existing rates.

Reps. Sanchez and Prusak reference the cost of addiction in Oregon as the impetus for the bill, citing statistics that the state's alcohol mortality rate has increased by 34 percent in the past 21 years, killing "five times as many people as all drug overdoses combined." The bill stipulates that tax revenues would go toward addiction recovery measures.

The Oregon Beverage Alliance and Oregon Wine Council both released statements this week in opposition to the bill, saying that it would be devastating to Oregon breweries, wineries, and distilleries already suffering from the impact of wildfires and COVID-19 closures.

“The idea of increasing the tax on small, local wineries that provide important jobs and tourism revenue to the state when we are just beginning to approach recovery from the current economic crisis is incomprehensible, let alone an increase of nearly 1700 percent,” said Sam Tannahill, Founder and Winegrower at A to Z Wineworks and Rex Hill winery. “As written, this proposal would potentially force most of Oregon’s prized wineries to simply shut down, as they would be unable to sustain their operations with this drastic of a tax increase.”

Both groups cited polls, conducted by the Oregon Beverage Alliance, that found 74 percent of Oregonians oppose alcohol tax increases.

“This appears to be the single largest beer, wine and cider tax increases ever proposed. If the goal is to kill the Oregon beer, wine and cider sectors, this bill is a great start," the Oregon Beverage Alliance said. "Beer, wine, cider and spirits are an essential part of Oregon’s economy and identity. House Bill 3296 would eliminate these local jobs with a nearly 3,000% tax increase on beer and cider and almost 2,000% tax increase on wine at a time when these businesses are battling a pandemic recession. This is tremendously insulting and would be an unprecedented blow to a sector that has put Oregon on the map."

The actual tax increase would be closer to 2,700 percent for beer and cider, 1,538 percent for wine. The Oregon Wine Council estimated that the bill would raise the cost of every bottle of wine sold in Oregon by more than two dollars.

“It is unfathomable to think that now is an appropriate time to increase any tax on one of Oregon’s homegrown industries that has suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, let alone one of this magnitude,” said Scott Kelley, owner and winemaker at Paul O’Brien Winery.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 173626

Reported Deaths: 2457
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah34641566
Washington23309229
Marion20037299
Clackamas15216204
Lane11478144
Jackson9846127
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Deschutes698772
Linn410763
Yamhill407074
Malheur342558
Polk341752
Klamath340859
Josephine304262
Douglas302765
Benton272518
Jefferson205932
Coos196631
Columbia153326
Union141124
Lincoln129720
Wasco128628
Hood River112429
Morrow107815
Clatsop8838
Crook86819
Baker85114
Curry5919
Tillamook5763
Lake4137
Grant4044
Harney3046
Wallowa1575
Sherman570
Gilliam551
Wheeler251
Unassigned00

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Los Angeles122811823601
Riverside2972154525
San Bernardino2944644544
San Diego2745663662
Orange2687624886
Santa Clara1167722013
Kern1077641317
Sacramento1010581646
Fresno1004311642
Alameda850891475
Ventura802301000
San Joaquin714311334
Contra Costa66839781
Stanislaus603061028
Tulare49383829
Monterey43260352
San Mateo41050560
San Francisco35947517
Santa Barbara33830446
Solano31875239
Merced31196452
Sonoma29632311
Imperial27920718
Kings22755245
Placer21751283
San Luis Obispo20917256
Madera16234239
Santa Cruz15554203
Marin13851226
Yolo13547199
Shasta11677217
Butte11529196
El Dorado9688109
Napa965479
Sutter9268109
Yuba609844
San Benito596963
Lassen566624
Tehama543056
Nevada444775
Tuolumne406664
Mendocino398747
Amador361646
Humboldt358737
Lake339943
Glenn235425
Colusa219216
Calaveras205551
Siskiyou194021
Inyo141738
Del Norte12747
Mono12734
Plumas6906
Modoc4884
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