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Inslee says he’ll gladly pay taxes on beer, ‘the beautiful amber nectar of the gods’

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
March 28, 2013 7:14 pm

Gov. Jay Inslee said his plan to extend and expand beer taxes would cost him more as well.78457398

Inslee couched his love for hops and malt in an indirect way. It seems his mother-in-law frowns upon beer drinking.

I can tell you that a review of the photographic evidence might find me holding a brown bottle not too infrequently after a hard pickup basketball game in many, many locations across the state of Washington. So I will be a proud participant in the continued payment of investment in our schools through this beautiful amber nectar of the gods.

The beer tax was raised in 2010 as a “temporary’ measure to deal with a budget crisis. Making the 50-cents-a-gallon surcharge permanent would raise $127 million for the state over the next two years, including $25 million from extending the tax to microbreweries. Small brewers had been exempt from the original tax, raising criticism that the tax would hit blue-collar swillers of Bud Lite but not those who quaff highfalutin IPAs and porters.

Inslee said the tax hasn’t done damage:

We’ve managed to enjoy this brown liquid for the last two years without destroying the economy or our ability to enjoy beer. I’ve been quite happy and my friends have been happy enjoying beer the last two years, and we’ve managed to continue doing so. And the economy has sailed along, and our industry is growing, and this is a tremendous industry. I love this industry. My dad, one of his first jobs, the job he had the day I was born – a few weeks after I was born – was cleaning out the fermentation tanks at the Olympia Brewery.

But the beer industry quickly launched a broadside against Inslee’s budget. UPDATE 2 p.m.: The industry has created a website and social media accounts for its “End the Beer Tax Now” campaign. Beer distributors reported spending $62,500 on the campaign in February. The group said today:

A balanced approach that addresses wasteful spending in the budget and doesn’t single out one industry is the best solution for dealing with our state’s financial issues.  When the nearly 200% tax increase was enacted in 2010, lawmakers gave us their word that it would be temporary and they shouldn’t go back on their promises to Washingtonians.

Additionally, extending Washington’s unfair tax rate of $23.58 per barrel puts us at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states.  By contrast, Oregon’s per barrel tax rate is $2.60 (905% lower) and Idaho’s is $4.65 (506% lower).  These states’ favorable public policies that keep beer taxes low create a robust brewing environment and support the development and investment in the industry that leads to job growth.

Inslee said it’s a trade-off between beer taxes and education. Surrounded by kids from Cleveland High School, Inslee said he visited a science lab at the Seattle school.

I don’t think any citizen’s going to walk out of there and say, ‘Gosh, this beer thing was only supposed to be temporary. Let’s shut down this lab.’ I just don’t know any good beer drinker that’s going to take that position. Because the fermentation that’s going on in that lab is the fermentation of some genius ideas in young minds. That’s the fermentation that we ought to be focusing on.

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