Something is brewing in Salem.
For much of the past month, legislators, brewers, and the general public have wrestled over the question of whether to hike Oregon's beer tax to fill some of the ever-widening budget shortfall.
Here's how the proposal works: The bill would raise the beer tax from less than a penny per 12-ounce glass to about 15 cents - a staggering 1,900 percent increase.
The state now enjoys one of the lowest rates in the country, perhaps the reason so many great breweries have taken root here - Widmer Brothers Brewery, MacTarnahan's and nearby Full Sail Brewing to name a few.
But since the charge is imposed as a production tax, some smaller breweries will undoubtedly feel pinched by the drastic increase. Response to the idea has fallen all over the map, from the outrage of those little guys to the staunch support of some lawmakers.
One online commenter to The Oregonian put it this way:
"I think I'm too drunk to understand this."
But one fact remains. The state is still staring at a $3 billion budget hole to fill next year, and the Legislature will need all the help it can get to make up for it. And perhaps it's a strong assumption, but the move is all but guaranteed revenue. Oregonians love their beer, and it's likely they'll continue to buy it with or without the extra tax.
That's why lawmakers should go for the beer tax. They'll need it. And to the concerned connoisseur, we say home brewing is an excellent hobby.
- Eric Florip