Want to Know About the Oregon Beer Tax?

March 23, 2009

What’s the issue?

House Bill 2461 would raise the Oregon beer tax from less than eight-tenths of a penny per glass to $0.15.

The tax is paid on beer that is sold for consumption in Oregon, either by the brewer or the distributor who imports it into the state.

It is projected that the tax increase would raise about $165 million per year or $330 million for the biennium.  The money would be dedicated to funding alcohol and drug treatment, prevention, and recovery services, with $50 million going to the general fund.
Why do we support it?

Oregonians paid an estimated $3.2 billion in 2006 for alcohol-related crime, violence, lost productivity and health costs. That’s eight times greater than the $395 million in tax revenues collected in 2006 from the sale of alcohol.

Every dollar spent on alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment save five dollars!

It is realistic and efficient to fund prevention and treatment services with revenues from the sale of the product that creates the problem.

These services have been cut in recent years, while the beer tax hasn’t been raised in 32 years.  The current tax doesn’t even begin to meet current needs to people who require and are asking for help.

Add drug abuse, and the cost to Oregonians reaches $5.93 billion. 

Do prevention and treatment work?

Yes, studies consistently show that crime goes down, employment goes up, and families are saved when prevention and treatment are made available.
Why hasn’t the Oregon beer tax been increased in 32 years? 

Because the beer industry – especially the beer distributors lobby – have had an effective hold on legislators, contributing millions of dollars in campaign contributions.  Legislators have had a long-standing, cozy relationship with industry lobbyists, and some, in fact, found themselves in trouble when they took some all-expenses-paid vacations courtesy of the industry lobby.

Efforts to raise the beer tax have been made in prior sessions of the Legislature with no success.  But with a Democratic majority in both houses, and an $885 million state budget deficit, its chances look better than they have in years.

Have other states raised their beer tax during the past 32 years?

Most have.  In fact, Oregon’s beer tax is effectively, the lowest in the nation. Two other states have lower beer taxes, but they also have a sales tax attached.  Of course, during this time, beer prices have increased, while the tax hasn’t.

The industry keeps arguing that the tax would amount to a 1,900 percent increase.  What about that?

Any increase looks big when multiplied against almost nothing

Oregon’s brewers say a tax increase would devastate them, causing job losses and financial ruin.  True?

Patently false. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere that a beer tax increase would mean fewer sales and lower profits for Oregon’s brewers.  Prior studies from other states say the only customers who may be drinking less because of higher taxes are problem drinkers and underage drinkers.

In Oregon, underage drinking is a bigger problem than most other states.  Alcohol use by Oregon 8th graders is almost double the national average.

What about the industry argument that Oregonians will see mammoth price increases – up to $2.00 per pint of beer?

Again, there is no evidence this will be the case.  The industry talks about a price markup by middlemen, distributors, and retailers based on a higher tax.  But a survey of convenience stores in eight other Western states – states with the beer tax up to 500 percent higher – found no relationship between the excise tax level and the price of beer.

Is there an example of this?

Yes, this month we went shopping. And we found that a six-pack of Widmer sold at a Portland Fred Meyer was more expensive than the same product at a Vancouver Fred Meyer, even though Washington’s beer tax is three times higher than Oregon’s and where the sales tax is 6.2 percent!

The six pack in Oregon cost $9.49, while the six pack in Washington cost $8.69.

The industry keeps talking about price per-barrel.  Why?

Because $49.61 per barrel sounds like a lot scarier than $0.15 per glass.

Why couldn’t the proposed legislation exempt Oregon brewers?

It could, and has.  In the last session of the Legislature, most local brewers were made exempt from a proposed tax increase (they still opposed it). This time around, sponsors of the bill decided to include them in the tax increase.

Why not tax hard liquor and wine instead?

Wine is already taxed at about $.04 per glass.  And customers of distilled spirits (hard liquor) pay some of the highest prices in the country – partly to support the OLCC’s warehousing, distribution and retail infrastructure and to generate the $135 million per year paid out to the state general fund and to local governments.

Where does the public stand?

Surveys have consistently shown that most Oregonians would support a beer tax increase to pay for needed prevention, recovery and addictions programs.

The latest survey conducted in February, 2009 found that 61 percent of Oregonians favor increasing the beer tax while 65 percent oppose making significant cuts to substance abuse and treatment programs, even in light of the state’s recent budget woes.  The survey was conducted by Moore Information, Inc, a local opinion research firm.


Poll Says Most Oregonians Favor Beer Tax

March 18, 2009

Echoing previous polls, a survey of Oregon voters conducted by Moore Information, Inc. shows that 61 percent favor increasing the Oregon beer tax by fifteen cents a glass.

The survey conducted last month also revealed concern that alcohol and drug problems will increase as a result of the recession.

 Oregon’s beer tax – less than a penny a glass – is effectively the lowest in the country and hasn’t been raised in 32 years. “This poll shows what we’ve known for a long time,” says Judy Cushing, President/CEO of Oregon Partnership, a statewide non-profit dedicated to combating alcohol and drug abuse. “Oregonians are willing to pay pennies more for a beer to raise millions of dollars that will go directly toward prevention, treatment, and recovery.”

 It is projected the tax increase would raise about $165 million per year. Oregonians pay more than $3 billion a year for alcohol-related crime, violence, lost productivity and health costs. Alcohol and drug abuse was a factor in 55 percent of cases where children were removed from the homes of their parents or guardians in 2007.

 “It is realistic and efficient to fund prevention and treatment services with revenues from the sale of the product that creates the problem,” adds Cushing. “More than 90 percent of the tax revenue will come from the major out-of-state producers who have been getting what amounts to a free ride for their product sold in Oregon.”

Substance abuse prevention and treatment programs in Oregon are facing funding cuts of 83 percent.

 Meanwhile, the need is increasing: The state’s alcohol and drug crisis lines and the suicide prevention line – operated by Oregon Partnership – are receiving more than double the normal amount of calls from those seeking help.

According to Moore Information, Inc, a Portland opinion research firm, key findings of the survey reveal:  61 percent of Oregonians favor increasing the beer and wine tax by fifteen cents a glass in order to ensure adequate funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. This tax is supported in all regions of the state among Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.

 Given a choice between cutting funding of substance abuse treatment and prevention programs or increasing taxes to ensure these programs are adequately funded, increasing the beer and wine tax is preferred by a margin of 64 percent to 29 percent.

  80 percent of voters statewide are concerned about substance abuse, with voters outside the Portland Metro area most concerned.

 64 percent expect substance abuse problems to increase as a result of the recession. While the poll referred to a “beer and wine tax,” House Bill 2461 in the Oregon Legislature only applies to beer.

About Oregon Partnership: Oregon Partnership is a statewide nonprofit that has worked to promote healthy kids and communities for well over a decade by raising awareness about drug and alcohol issues, providing prevention education in classrooms, and 24-hour crisis lines for people needing help. To learn more, visit http://www.orpartnership.org.

Let’s Be Real About the Beer Tax

March 9, 2009

Oregonians have been bombarded with false information and outrageous predictions about a proposed beer tax increase. It’s time to look at the reality.
• The Oregon beer tax has not been raised in 32 years.

• Oregon’s beer tax is less than a penny per 12-ounce container, effectively the nation’s lowest beer tax.  Those states with a slightly lower beer tax than Oregon have a sales tax that puts their total tax higher than ours. The industry has grabbed headlines with its cries of a 1,900 percent increase. The fact is, any increase looks large when multiplied against almost nothing. 

• There is no evidence a beer tax increase would cause job losses or financial ruin for our thriving Oregon brewers. And, in fact, the vast majority of the $320 million that would be raised would come from the major out-of-state beer companies.

• Beer producers say a considerable increase would translate to an additional $2 per pint. That’s demonstrably false. A week ago we purchased a six-pack of Widmer brew in Vancouver, Wash. – where the beer tax is three times that of Oregon’s and Washington’s sales tax is 6.2 percent. We discovered that a six-pack of Widmer was cheaper at $8.69 at a Vancouver Fred Meyer store compared with $9.49 at a Portland Fred Meyer. Who’s pocketing the change? The industry talks about a price markup by middlemen, distributors and retailers based on a higher tax. That shouldn’t happen and, based on the examples above, it doesn’t!  

As Rep. Ben Cannon noted in his testimony before the House Revenue Committee, a survey of convenience stores in eight other Western states – states with excise taxes up to 500 percent higher – found no relationship between the excise tax level and beer price.

• Oregonians love their Oregon-grown wine and craft brew industries.  Regardless of an increase in the beer tax, Oregonians will continue consuming their favorite suds. The industry’s argument that up to 3,000 jobs would be lost is preposterous!

• The cost of alcohol and drug addiction to Oregon is staggering. Prisons cost more than prevention. Oregonians paid an estimated $3.2 billion in 2006 for alcohol-related crime, violence, lost productivity and health costs. Those are costs all of us pay. Make no mistake: Alcohol treatment and prevention can and will save Oregonians money, and it saves lives.

It seems that in the Oregon Capitol changing the tax on beer is “off limits,” sacred ground and politically stupid. Could it be because of the long-standing, cozy relationship many legislators have with industry lobbyists? 

A beer tax increase may be hard for lawmakers to swallow, but something is terribly wrong when Oregon’s young people can’t get treatment and alcohol and drug prevention in schools is almost non-existent. 

The sober truth is that Oregon can’t afford to wait any longer!

By Judy Cushing

Judy Cushing is president/CEO of Oregon Partnership, a statewide nonprofit that exists to end alcohol and other drug abuse.

Oregon Partnership Launches Spring Break Campaign

March 5, 2009

A Spring Break campaign, targeting parents and teens, gets underway this week to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking and offers healthy alternatives.

The campaign is part of the statewide Face it, Parents underage drinking prevention initiative and coordinated by Oregon Partnership and Community Action to Reduce Substance Abuse (CARSA).

As part of the effort, letters from Portland area police chiefs are being sent to parents, schools, and community groups explaining how best to keep kids safe during Spring Break.

Those sending out the letters include Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, Multnomah County Sheriff Bob Skipper, Gresham Police Chief Craig Junginger, Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson, and Fairview Police Chief Kenneth Johnson.

“Teens are drinking way too much in Multnomah County,” Sizer and Skipper tell parents. “We want to prevent underage drinking, and the truth is that you, as a parent have more influence over your teenager than we do.”

The letters also warn parents about the impact of alcohol on the developing adolescent brain and how it can damage brain development by to up 10%.

During Spring Break, teens should enjoy their time off in healthy ways, such as sports, outdoor activities, art projects and volunteering in the community.

A list of suggested activities and links will be featured on Oregon Partnership’s website at www.orpartnership.org.

Free Tri-Met bus passes for the week of March 23rd will also be available on the website while supplies last.

Face it, Parents public service announcements written and recorded by Marshall High School students will air on KKCW FM (K-103) and streamed on the station website.

On the TV side, Face It, Parents PSA’s produced by the Art Institute of Portland will air on KPTV(Fox 12).
Suggestions for parents:
   *Talk to each of your children and express your strong disapproval of  
     underage alcohol and drug use.  This is a very powerful step!

     *Tell your teens they may not go to parties where alcohol or drugs are consumed, but remind them that they can always call you if they get into a bad situation.  Still, check with other parents before you allow your teen to attend a party.

    *Monitor your home alcohol supplies.  Kids often get alcohol from homes.  Consider a lock for your liquor cabinet or storing less alcohol in your home, and track alcohol supplies.

 *Report any suspected parties to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s dispatch center at (503) 872-5070.
     *Plan fun activities for your teen and family.  For activity ideas during spring break, visit www.orpartnership.org.  Don’t be fooled when your kids says it’s not cool to do things with parents; they really value the time you spend with them. 
          For more information about underage drinking and resources for families,   
          visit www.FaceitParents.com.

Chicago Mom To Pay $2.5 mil For Underage Drinking Party

March 3, 2009

Parents: Hosting underage drinking is NOT OK!

A former high school student, paralyzed in a car collision after a 2006 teenage drinking party, will receive a $2.5 million settlement from the mother of the party’s hosts.

George Baldwin, now 22 and paralyzed from the chest down, sued Lauralee Pfeifer after the Nov. 19, 2006, party at their Lake Forest home in Chicago’s North Shore area.

Her daughters, then 16 and 17, threw the underage bash. Baldwin left the party with a friend, who crashed his car into a utility box on an Illinois highway. Both men were hurt, Baldwin more seriously.

Recently, a Lake County judge approved the settlement against Lauralee Pfeifer for the maximum $2.5 million covered by her homeowner’s insurance, said Patrick Salvi, Baldwin’s attorney. “We were not suing her as a social host but in her role as a parent,” Salvi said. “It was her duty to supervise her children.”

Source: Chicago Sun-Times