Monday, October 12, 2009

A Penny For Your Thoughts - Pearl Street Brewery

Joe Katchever, Brewmaster of Pearl Street Brewery, also writes to Theresa Berceau


Representative Berceau-

I find your "proposal to raise the Wisconsin beer tax by 2.4¢ a 12 oz. bottle for alcohol treatment and prevention" power point presentation to be very subjective and misleading. Factually, it is inaccurate and quite dated, and in merit it is injudicious. First off, this tax will very possibly result in a 50 cent per six pack increase by the time costs are added up along the supply chain. Many of the references you cited for your "facts" were published in the early 90's and even as far back as 1987. Many of your sources are neoprohibitionist organizations and can hardly be taken as fact. One of your slides bears the heading, "Most Wisconsin beer producers pay little in taxes." Tell me, what are the 26 Wisconsin breweries who paid less than $100 in taxes in 2007? Which ones paid less than $1000? I must be doing something wrong because my family-owned brewery paid more in beer taxes than I, personally, earned in 2007. That's beer taxes alone, not income taxes, or property taxes, etc. Who do you expect to believe that $1.08 is the "average price" of a craft beer? Most bars in Madison get about $4 or $5 for a craft beer and the average 6-pack of good beer is closer to $8. While you did point out that Wisconsin breweries are exempt from excise taxes on beer exported out of state, you failed to mention that we DO pay those taxes to the state that the beer is being shipped to, and as you pointed out, many of these states have even higher beer taxes than Wisconsin does. You also failed to mention that beer imported into Wisconsin is subject to the Wisconsin beer tax.

You exclaimed that beer taxes in Wisconsin haven't gone up in some time, but you didn't say in your presentation that Wisconsin beer taxes have not gone up in so long because beer is already, by far, Wisconsin's highest taxed industry. On top of high taxes, Wisconsin breweries collectively spend far more to promote responsible drinking and to prevent alcohol related problems than your legislature does. We would spend even more if we didn't pay so much in taxes. Contrary to what you'd have people believe, we'd like our customers to be alive and healthy.

Blaming the breweries and their workers for the abuses of alcohol is like blaming engineers for earthquakes. Or blaming cows for global warming. Or blaming politicians for corruption. We, the brewers and the responsible beer drinkers of Wisconsin take issue with that. I notice that the revenue from this tax increase is not even earmarked for any type of effort to reduce drinking fatalities, which can only mean the money will go to the general fund to be plundered by your colleagues' "social programs". Isn't that right? If your intentions are sincere, perhaps you wouldn't mind introducing some legislation where Wisconsin breweries' taxes would be decreased by the amount they spend on beer and alcohol education and the promotion of responsible consumption.

Furthermore, I am very curious as to why your proposal targets Wisconsin breweries and not wineries or distilleries. Perhaps you're a wine drinker.

Miss Berceau, you show no knowledge of Wisconsin's rich and wonderful brewing heritage, nor the history of beer and brewing and the important role it's played in our ancestory and in our country's prosperity. Your tax and spend notions have no place in today's economy. You are no friend of the beer drinker.

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