Brewery workers protest plan to expand beer taxes

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Brewers gathered at the Capitol on Friday to protest a House budget proposal that makes permanent a beer tax on large breweries and extends the tax to small brewers.

Several state brewers spoke against the proposal at a public hearing in the morning before heading out to the Capitol steps, where about 100 people held a rally, carrying signs including “Give me beer or give me death” and “WA Beer = WA Jobs.”

The House wants to permanently extend a beer tax on large brewers selling more than 60,000 gallons that was set to expire in June, but looks to lower it from 50-cents-per-gallon to 25-cents-per-gallon. The tax would be extended to small brewers at 15-cent-per-gallon. Combined, the tax would bring in $58 million to the state.

The Senate’s budget proposal does not include the tax.

Lawmakers are nearing the end of the 105-day legislative session where they’re tasked with patching a projected budget deficit of more than $1.2 billion while also putting more money into the state’s basic education system. The House and Senate will have to work out their budget differences before the April 28 end of the regular session if they want to avoid going into special session.

Brewers say the tax will hurt their business, especially that of smaller brewers. “This is just a crushing proposal,” said Dick Cantwell, co-founder and head brewer of Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle. He said his brewery will likely end up having to pay an additional $600,000 a year if the proposal stands.

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