Increase to Beer Tax Brewing in New Hampshire
- Jan 28, 2013 | Gail Cole
Update, 7.25.13: The Live Free or Die state killed the beer tax increase.
There is a bill on the table in New Hampshire that would increase the tax on beer by 10 cents a gallon.
House Bill 168 ups the tax from $0.30 to $0.40 "per gallon of beverages or specialty beer… ." If approved, "This act shall take effect July 1, 2013."
Assuming "beer sales would remain constant" with the passage of the bill, the NH State Liquor Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services estimate a $4,295,108 increase to the "state restricted revenue and expenditures … in FY 2014 and each year thereafter." That money would be dedicated to the alcohol abuse prevention and treatment fund.
Representative Chuck Weed (D-Keene) is one of the forces behind the bill. He says it's "irresponsible" for funds raised by the beer tax to not address the health consequence of drinking beer. His 10-cent increase would rectify that.
But Chris Brown, owner of the state's biggest beer distributor, called the proposed tax regressive. "[I]f you're looking to increase taxes on lower income and middle America, a beer tax is right there."
"New Hampshire has the nation's highest beer sales per capita," but before you make all sorts of assumptions about New Hampshirites, consider that a good portion of beer is sold to people from neighboring states. It's easy for travelers to buy alcohol in New Hampshire, since there's a state liquor store located at a highway rest area on Interstate 93.
At a public hearing on January 23, members of the state's brewing industry spoke out against the proposed tax increase. A spokesman for Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Portsmouth said "it would hurt the state's smaller micro and nano breweries that sell their craft beer wholesale." NH nanobreweries have been on the rise in recent years, since the Granite State "is the only state in the nation to recognize and codify nanobreweries as separate from large-scale beverage manufacturers." That makes it easier for "the little guys to get a license, open a tap room and get brewing." There is concern that the proposed tax would hurt those craft brewers.
Governor Maggie Hassan (D) does not favor the tax. Before the Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens on January 20, the governor quipped, "As the Patriots head to the Super Bowl, I don't think now is the time to increase the beer tax." She "vowed … to veto legislation to raise the state's beer tax rate by a third." Maybe she'll reconsider, now that the Ravens are heading to New Orleans instead. (Concord Monitor).
An executive session to discuss the bill is scheduled for January 29.
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