Oregon’s Beer Tax Increase Dies a Quick Death

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a proposal to raise Oregon’s beer tax. I pointed out a few reasons why this would be challenging: 1) if it were pitched as a punitive sin tax rather than a pigouvian tax that recouped direct costs born by beer’s negative effects, sponsors could expect a pitched battle; 2) the beer industry already pays a bunch of taxes and is very popular; and 3) it would raise very little money. 

I am delighted to say that our newly re-elected Governor came to exactly the same conclusion, almost point by point: 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is embracing a proposal by the Oregon Health Authority to raise cigarette taxes — but she’s rejecting the agency’s bid to raise alcohol taxes. Brown said she buys the agency’s argument that smoking is a major factor in driving up health care costs in Oregon and that tobacco taxes should play a bigger role in helping fund the Oregon Health Plan.

But the governor said that increasing taxes on beer, wine and cider faces too many political hurdles. “I know the beer and wine tax hasn’t been increased in 30-plus years,” Brown said during a conference call with reporters Friday. “The challenge for that particular arena is that we just don’t get enough bang for the buck … It’s a tough fight at the Legislature and we’re not likely to be successful.”

if I were a more arrogant or self-deceptive man, I’d say Kate Brown was a reader of the blog. (Don’t worry, I’m not. She is a smart cookie and didn’t need me to lay out the facts.)

Jeff Alworth