10.10.2009

Another blow to beer

Fresh on the heels of a proposal to limit parents' rights, comes another attack on the brewing industry -- a proposed increase on the beer excise tax:
I agree 100% with Kirby and Carl that this proposal is a cash grab and has nothing to do with reducing "alcoholism" or consumption in this state. To the extent you are told otherwise, you are being lied to. And Kirby nails it on the head: "...they[the proponents of the tax] are coaching their minions to avoid talking about reducing consumption because it leads to job loss discussions. Apparently the message is let’s keep the harm happening and just raise more money."
Indeed. Inside, my take, and a well reasoned letter from one microbrewer.

Update: Full text of the proposed bill here.

Update II: The hearing is at 9 am, in the Vilas Room of the Inn on the Park. Good of them to schedule it at a time regular working folks are able to show up.


I've written to Rep. Al Ott, who is closest to my representative on the hearing committee:
As a resident of the Fox Valley, I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed increase on the beer excise tax in Wisconsin. I believe it is a step in the wrong direction in a number of respects.

Wisconsin craft beers have made our state well-known for an artisanal product throughout the nation. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I was pleased to find that my fellow volunteers from all parts of the country knew of, and often drank, Wisconsin microbrew beers. Raising the tax as proposed would substantially, negatively impact our brewers' ability to stay in business, which would in turn have a deleterious effect on Wisconsin's image and prestige throughout the country.

Microbrew companies are the "mom-and-pop shop" of the brewing industry. Their revenue goes directly to supporting their local communities and toward investing in local jobs. In difficult business conditions, Wisconsin cannot afford to put more local workers out of jobs.

Wisconsin already has a heavy tax rate that discourages business from locating in our state. Raising the excise tax as proposed would send a further negative signal to businesses both in and out of state, that Madison does not respect or value those who create jobs for the people of Wisconsin. It further darkens an already unpleasant business outlook. Even in good economic times, this would not be a wise proposition; in our current economic circumstances, the consequences will be even worse.

A fine letter also appeared today from Rowlands Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Chilton. The whole thing is worth your time, but this excerpt sets the tone:
Like many businesses today, we are facing a difficult time. Brewing on a small scale is very expensive. We have seen increases in the whole sale pricing over the past two years, yet we cannot pass on all of increased costs to customers and remain competitive in the marketplace. If we were to increase our prices even more, there is a point at which our products would become too expensive, and consumers will simply stop buying them.

There are 65 craft brewers operating in the state of Wisconsin. We are one of that number. We work very hard at what we do. We contribute to our local communities. We bring tourists to our community. Tourists use our hotels, our motels, our restaurants, and our gas stations and our grocery stores. We are well known in the brewing community in the state and across the nation. We helped put our community on the map.
Please do contact your representative(s) on the issue if you have time; this is a tremendously bad idea that clearly looks good to the clutching claws of the state government. I'll be at the hearing mentioned on Tuesday with live reporting.