Monday, February 23, 2009

Garrett Hearts Beer Brewers and Drinkers

Here's a measure I hope Representative Scott Garrett can help get passed, and a tax break I think most of us can get behind. The day before Valentine's day, Garrett joined a number of Representatives in co-sponsoring a bill calling for the Federal Excise tax on beer to be slashed in half (Rep. Bill Pascrell was an original co-sponsor).

This is much more about jobs and fairness than the penny or two per bottle the tax costs us as consumers. Using the most recent numbers I could find, as it stands now, the average micro-brewery in the US is paying an average of about $16,584 in federal excise taxes on their product, in addition to their income taxes and myriad of state, county and local taxes.

Beer is easily one of the most overtaxed consumer products in America.

Having known more than a few people that have worked at breweries, especially the micro variety, they are often times staffed by part-timers passionate about the craft and the product they produce. Kids working their way through college. Parents making a little income on the weekend. This kind of targeted tax break could be a huge boost to these small, passionate, job producing businesses.

Garrett and Pascrell taking up this cause now comes at important time for all of us who like well crafted beer. In a time of economic downturn and increased raw material costs, states like Oregon have gone off the deep end by considering increasing their excise tax 1,900% ($49.61 per barrel from $2.61). Other states like Idaho, Kentucky and New York either have or are thinking about increasing excise taxes even further.

With breweries as close as New York threatening to close due to their state's actions, New Jersey's relatively low excise tax could attract new business. If breweries really do close their doors, it's not hard to imagine their equipment finding it's way to New Jersey. Every time I see an abandoned factory here, I think about a brewery I used to frequent in Michigan that was able to turn an eyesore into a community gathering place.

Granted, we'd have to deal with our regulatory mess that somehow has only fostered 14 breweries in a state with almost 9 million people, but that's another post for another day.

In the meantime, cheers to Garrett for joining Pascrell in this effort.

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