Bend has long been home to some of our nation’s best breweries, but more and more distillers are also making it their home. There are now more than 70 distilleries across the state, all of which contribute to Oregon’s economy, adding jobs, revenue and economic diversity. But if the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) approves Gov. Tina Kotek’s proposed 50-cent tax increase on alcohol, it will be a massive hit to local businesses already facing withering competition from better funded national brands.
As Bend residents likely know, more than half our state’s jobs are in leisure and hospitality. That’s far more than most other states because beer, wine, cider and spirits are an essential part of Oregon’s economy and identity. Oregon distillers help create 19,000 of these jobs and generate $2 billion in economic output for the state.
Not surprisingly alcohol is the third largest source of revenue, estimated to contribute $629 million in Oregon’s 2021-2023 spending. Oregon already has the second highest tax rate on distilled spirits. Gov. Kotek’s new proposal is on top of the already recently passed 50-cent tax increase on spirits, so that would mean taxes on businesses like mine will have doubled within her just two-month tenure.
Oregon does have an addiction crisis, a drug addiction crisis. Oregon’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission reports our state ranks number one in addiction to methamphetamines and prescription drugs, such as opioids. But when it comes to alcohol, we’re on par with other states in the country.
Despite having a small population, Oregon spends more on drug addiction recovery and prevention than 75% of other states. And that statistic comes from before last year’s passage of the massive $470 million behavior health package, passage of Measure 110, which added another $300 million for drug addiction treatment per biennium, and the additional $330 million Oregon received from the national opioid lawsuit settlement. But for all this spending on a crisis, we’re getting hardly any results. The problem is a lack of coordination and accountability within the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and drug addiction recovery providers, not funding. We need to solve the structural problems with how Oregon deals with drug addiction first.
OHA is flush with this drug addiction funding. And yet, some are still talking about raising taxes on alcohol despite record-breaking revenue for the state and unprecedented challenges for businesses. With the highest cost increases in generations, the last thing our local businesses need are tax increases, especially when taxes are not the fix to the stated problem.
We also need to recognize that a big part of this tax is an effort by some to tax alcohol out of existence. And make no mistake, raising taxes will not curb drinking but it will make it even harder for the small local companies to compete against the largest national brands. History taught us that Prohibition caused far more problems than it fixed.
As local business owners and residents, Bend distillers care deeply about our community. That’s why we invest and create so many jobs here in Oregon. More absolutely needs to be done to address drug addiction and we stand ready and willing to work with lawmakers and stakeholders on these issues. But Oregon cannot afford to lose its top sector, nor should it when distillers are here to help. I hope the OLCC recognizes that Gov. Kotek’s budget proposal to double alcohol taxes will do more harm than good. Instead, we need to ensure existing resources are being spent wisely and actually helping people with the disease of addiction.
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The city is mulling a transportation utility fee, a seasonal fuel tax and/or a targeted sales tax on food and beverage sales to cover transportaiton costs, repairs. You can respond directly to the city at firstname.lastname@example.org. See our editorial at https://bendbulletin.us/3n5cACr
Oregon is indeed number one in untreated addiction to drugs like meth and heroin, and now fenatnyl, but the author is wrong about prescription drugs. Misuse of Rx opiods is down dramatically in Orehon (and nationwide) since 2011 - over 75% reductions.
The problem is that some charts do not distinuish between "synthetics" - like fentanyl and "semi-synthetics" like oxycodone. In any event, Oregon's biggest problem is not diversion of legal drus, but manufacture and sale of srugs that were never legal (meth and heroin).
Alan is very much on target here. the problem, beside the obvious addictions, is lack of effective and accountable leadership and management of resources as he stated.
oh, and then there's this from today's NYT's...."Oregon Liquor Officials Are Accused of Hoarding Rare Bourbon
An investigation found that six officials with the state’s liquor commission had diverted bottles of high-end alcohol for themselves, including Pappy Van Winkle bourbon."
the gov did do the right thing in getting these crooks gone, but more of this kind of action on her part across this corrupt government will more than likely negate any need to increase the CAT or the liquor taxes.
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