From Washington Beer Blog: West Seattle stake in brew-tax battle

West Seattle resident Kendall Jones sends word from Olympia that he is reporting live today for his site Washington Beer Blog, as the Legislature looks at Gov. Inslee‘s proposal to raise education money by extending a tax on brewers, and applying it to small breweries as well as large ones. He says there are two West Seattle angles to this – one, tax opponents are asking 34th District Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon for help; two, one of the small breweries leading the fight in Olympia today is West Seattleite-owned Schooner Exact. You can read Kendall’s ongoing report here.

25 Replies to "From Washington Beer Blog: West Seattle stake in brew-tax battle"

  • Kendall Jones April 8, 2013 (3:57 pm)

    If you love craft beer, you probably already oppose the tax plan. Please join me in asking Representative Fitzgibbon – “I would like you to prime sponsor an amendment to exempt small brewers from any tax increases coming out of the House Finance Committee.”

    If you do not love craft beer, have a nice day.

  • Mike April 8, 2013 (4:08 pm)

    No exemptions, please.

  • BPP April 8, 2013 (4:13 pm)

    Tax all beer or none at all.

  • DW April 8, 2013 (4:14 pm)

    According to the WBB, it sounds like the West Seattle Reps are all in favor of the tax – don’t understand this with so many craft breweries here. Sad.

  • Gharp April 8, 2013 (4:20 pm)

    Mike – care to elaborate why you think a 425% tax increase on small brewers would be a good thing?

    I realize we have fiscal shortfall that will impact education, but I’m not so sure that massively increasing taxes on a narrow segment of small businesses that provide jobs & income for Washington’s economy is a good way to make up for the shortfall.

  • Gharp April 8, 2013 (4:25 pm)

    BPP – all state breweries pay an excise tax already, and one of the highest excise taxes on beer in the nation at that.

    This current bill was a temporary tax on breweries over a certain size to cover the fiscal shortfall in 2010. Rather than let the temporary tax expire, they’re looking to extend it and expand it even further. Personally, I’d prefer our reps address the budget a little more fairly, rather than heavily taxing a very specific segment of small businesses.

  • BPP April 8, 2013 (4:29 pm)

    How many large brewers are there in this state anyway? Not many. This just taxes local artisans, and allows all the Coors, Miller, AB crap to come in untaxed if it was brewed elsewhere.

    Wouldn’t they make more if they simply charged .10 per bottle sold at retail or restaurants?

    This one is poorly thought out, like many proposals out of Oly these days.

  • M April 8, 2013 (4:31 pm)

    Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree (the guy with the beer)

    Senator Russel Long, LA

  • Gharp April 8, 2013 (4:59 pm)

    BPP – my understanding is that the current (2010) tax primarily only affects Red Hook. I definitely agree with you though – I’m concerned this will put our local breweries at a significant disadvantage compared to out of state breweries.

    In the bigger picture, I’d like to know why our Reps are targeting small breweries in particular… if they’re looking to tax alcohol, it would definitely make more sense to me if they bumped up the tax on _all_ alcohol sales.

    Or heck, even create a temporary “education tax” to fund schools until the economy recovers. This just seems like a short term quick fix, at the expense of long term benefits.

  • WestSeattleNative April 8, 2013 (5:19 pm)

    I am a home brewer and enjoy craft beers. Seattle was in the forefront of the microbrewery revolution and is now home to quite a few microbreweries. Statewide there are approximately 40k people employed in the Washington microbrewery industry. These small businesses are vital to the states economy. The increase and extension of this tax will only serve to stifle the growth of this industry and sadly in some cases even cause a business to close its doors, more jobs lost.
    Unfortunately appealing to Fitzgibbon and the other West Seattle elected officials will not accomplish anything because they are Democrats, their mission is to find ways to create new taxes and raise existing taxes regardless of the impact to the economy and people’s lives.

  • Douglas Kilpatrick April 8, 2013 (5:41 pm)

    How does this tax disproportionately affect small brewers?

    If it’s $0.X per bottle, then my knee jerk would be to say “sounds fair”. If it’s $Xk per brewer, then that’s obviously not fair…

  • mike April 8, 2013 (7:15 pm)

    Taxing craft brewers the same as Redhook, is like giving billions to wall street bankers and raising taxes on the middle class. Growing businesses is more helpful to our economic growth than taxing and abusing the taxes raised.

  • Nohopsforyou April 8, 2013 (8:31 pm)

    Why tax beer? If we are trying to raise funds for education why tax a small segment of the population? Didn’t they try to tax lattes a couple years ago? I’m all for raising funds for education, but this one leaves me with a better taste. I’m a democrat and my mission is not to find ways to impact the economy – I think there has to be a better more equitable way to do this. Gharps temporary education tax idea sounds reasonable.

  • M April 8, 2013 (8:56 pm)

    “I’m a democrat and my mission is not to find ways to impact the economy”


  • Nohopsforyou April 8, 2013 (9:17 pm)

    Responding to WestSeattleNative’s blanket statement above.

  • CraftLovinDemocrat April 8, 2013 (9:17 pm)

    What can honestly be done at this point but wait for the results? Ways to circumvent this potential tragedy will arise and things will be fine in due time.

  • Gharp April 9, 2013 (8:34 am)

    Douglas – this isn’t a per bottle tax, which would be paid by consumers (which I actually think would be more fair than what they’re currently proposing).

    This is a ‘per barrel’ tax, charged to the breweries. Currently WA breweries pay $8 per barrel in taxes, and for large breweries, they pay $23 per barrel over a 60,000 barrel limit, which currently only affects Red Hook. This proposal will require _all_ breweries to pay $23 per barrel, no matter how big they are. (This is going to be a HUGE cost to the newly started West Seattle Brewing for instance, not to mention Elliot Bay Brewing to toss out a couple local businesses)

    For comparison, Oregon charges $2.60 per barrel, and Idaho charges $4.60. If you were a brewer, where would you rather take your business? (The whole “golden goose” analogy keeps coming to mind)

  • cr April 9, 2013 (8:38 am)

    How do we go about fighting this???

  • themightyrabbit April 9, 2013 (8:57 am)

    even for those who don’t like beer or even craft beer, these folks are your neighbors, and friends that are creating innovative businesses that help the economy. taxes are already being paid by these craft brewers, but this is a targeted attack on a specific business type that is entirely inappropriate.

    these brewers also provides at many of their locations, great food, and invite food trucks over if they don’t have food. They’re a positive effect on your community. So before you dismiss it all and think “all brewer types should be equally taxed” remember these are operations that are not making millions of dollars. They’re very small labor intensive operations and overtaxing them will send them out of state.

    Your choice. Write your representative. Read Kendal’s blog on the updates. Keep up the pressure to make WA state a place attractive to bring in the tourist dollar.

  • themightyrabbit April 9, 2013 (9:02 am)

    Realize also that because of taxes imposed by WA state for imported beer from other states, many chose not to do business here. If we allow an over the top tax climate, we will continue to ensure that what we have on offer to make this state competitive with others will be stifled. Don’t just think about it just being about beer. This is about stopping policies that hurt the state in general.

    Approve your local school levies, keep your local school system in financial order by keeping them accountable, but don’t hike taxes elsewhere just because it sounds good to some politician.

  • M April 9, 2013 (11:46 am)

    So how many of you voted for Jay Inslee?? Sure saw alot of yard signs /bumper stickers with his name on it around here last November. Didn’t think he would raise taxes?

  • WestSeattleNative April 9, 2013 (12:18 pm)

    Ditto to M’s comment/question.

  • Kathy April 9, 2013 (3:59 pm)

    Love the local brews but I think it’s a stretch to say this will bring down the industry. Pass on the cost, beer lovers will pay whatever if you have a good product.

  • WestSeattleNative April 9, 2013 (7:58 pm)

    The folks in the business, brewing, don’t seem to share that line of thought. Some of them are putting all their profits back into their business, trying to expand, hire more employees. It is unfortunately this mind set, pile on the taxes, that stifles the economy, creates a poor business environment. Maybe cutting unnecessary spending and waste might leave more funds for education, public safety, and infrastructure.

  • Kendall Jones April 11, 2013 (1:05 pm)

    I’m impressed by all the thoughtful comments. I hope some of this energy got directed towards Olympia.

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