All day today I'm going to be publishing comments from brewers and breweries about the beer tax hearing tomorrow at 10am. First up is Chris Staples of Furthermore Beer - he cc'd me on his letter to his assemblyman asking for careful consideration.
Steve [ed note: "Steve" is Steve Hilgenberg, Rep of 51st Assembly District] - Chris Staples from Spring Green here. In addition to being a resident of the River Valley area for fifteen years, I am the owner of Furthermore Beer (and in the interest of full disclosure, contributed to your last campaign.) I write to you to express my dismay at Assembly Bill 287, aka "The Beer Tax". I assume you are aware that Wisconsin craft brewers operate on a razor-thin margin, which is ever-threatened by sky-rocketing raw materials cost (i.e. the change in hops prices over the last five years.) I'm sure you also know that roughly 40% of the retail price of craft-brewed beer is already paid as a tax of one form or another (existing federal and state beer tax, sales tax, payroll tax, etc.) And most importantly, I trust you can see how plainly this proposed increase in tax (from $1/barrel to $10/barrel) is intended simply as a revenue-generator for the General Fund masquerading as a social behavior/public welfare issue. Which, until more proactive measures to inhibit, enforce and penalize drunk-driving are undertaken, I find a bit rich. Because Furthermore Beer is so small, the likely net effect of the tax on our business is this: our prices will go up and our customers either will or will not continue to pay for our product. If they do continue to pay, congratulations! You've just succeeded in enacting a regressive tax that disproportionately effects the middle-class folks in our community who could desperately use a break. If our customers cease buying our products because of the increase in price, congratulations! You will have succeed in putting a local craft brewery out-of-business. Were we a larger company, the tax increase would CERTAINLY mean layoffs at our brewery. While this doesn't effect Furthermore Beer directly, please consider how this would effect Lake Louie in Arena. Or Tyrenena in Lake Mills. Or Lakefront in Milwaukee. Or Sand Creek in Black River Falls. Or Ale Asylum in Madison. Help me out here, Steve. Please don't support Assembly Bill 287. It's industry-crippling and has dubious merit and potential as a social-behavior initiative. Best Regards - Chris Staples, Spring Green