Oregon Beer Tax Hike Gaining Momentum!

This from the Oregonian:

The normally diplomatic state liquor control commission doesn’t like to weigh in on alcohol taxes.

But the three-member board unanimously endorsed a resolution on Thursday asking the Legislature to take a hard look at raising the privilege tax on beer and wine. And they had some harsh words for legislators.

Christie Scott, spokeswoman for the OLCC, acknowledges this is unique behavior for the board. Then again, she said, “it’s a unique time.”

Tension’s been brewing ever since lawmakers cut the agency’s budget, in order to help balance the state books on 2007-09. Liquor commissioners grudgingly adopted a 50-cent surcharge on bottled liquor, to help balance its own books, and ticked off store agents and distillers in the process.

(The OLCC regulates the sale of beer and wine in Oregon, but doesn’t sell the alcohol directly. The agency, however, does sell spirits.)

The Oregon beer tax hasn’t budged in 32 years, and is among the lowest in the country. The privilege tax on a 31-gallon barrel of beer is $2.60. A bill pending in the House would raise the tax to $49.61.

“Every time that they need more money,” said OLCC chairman Phil Lang, “they come to us.”

Lang was also former speaker of the Oregon House and has a wing in the Capitol named after him. Besides Lang, the two others voting on the resolution were Bob Rice and Christine Lewandowski. There are two vacancies on the board.

Rice said he’d like to see a broader sharing of the financial pain and called it “indefensible” to single out liquor. Lang also said it’s “ludicrous” to expect surcharge increases on spirits to “carry the burden.”

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