If you are already worried about Gov. Kate Brown’s plan to raise $2 billion in new taxes, she’s going to make it harder to drown your sorrows.
Brown plans to ask the state’s liquor commission for a 5 percent increase in the markup on liquor.
Oregon already holds the silver medal in high taxes on spirits in the country. The markup in Oregon of $22.75 a gallon is second only to Washington.
When a consumer buys a bottle of liquor in Oregon, they pay more than double on average the cost of the product. That makes the Oregon tax the most expensive ingredient in a bottle of booze.
Brown dropped the idea of jacking up prices on beer and wine, saying in a conference call there wasn’t enough “bang for the buck. … It’s a tough fight in the Legislature, and we’re not likely to be successful at the ballot.”
Why would she give up on beer and wine and stick it to liquor?
It’s easier. Beer and wine increases go through the Legislature. Distilled spirits markups are a decision made by the state liquor commission, and the commissioners are picked by the governor.
Twenty years ago not many people heard of Oregon wine or beer. How are Oregon distillers supposed to match that performance if they get clobbered by more taxes? The markup is not going to be great for Central Oregon’s economy, either: There are five distillers in Central Oregon that are members of Oregon’s distillery guild.
Brown’s plan to punish distillers makes about as much sense as the way she dropped it on them. Brad Irwin, a Bend whiskey distiller who serves as president of the 39-member Oregon Distillers Guild, said he talked to the governor’s office on Oct. 25. He got good news. He was told that a new, proposed 50-cent temporary surcharge was off the table and distillers might even get a break on the fees they must pay when they sell booze in their tasting rooms. There was no mention of a 5 percent markup. Then Brown’s budget was released and — surprise!
New taxes and tax increases are never going to win popularity contests. The only way to make them fair is to ensure they are broad-based and do not punish specific industries. Brown’s liquor markup should be rejected by the liquor commissioners.