Debate over state's beer tax hike coming to a head?

OLYMPIA -- Breweries and distributors are lobbying lawmakers to let the state's temporary beer tax increase expire on July 1, as scheduled, and not adopt a proposal to extend the tax and expand it to even the smallest brewers.

Three years ago, the Legislature raised Washington’s beer tax from $8.08 per 31-gallon barrel to $23.58, which amounts to about 50 cents a six-pack. It limited the tax hike to brewers that sold more than 60,000 barrels in the state of Washington, however, thereby exempting microbreweries. The temporary tax increase was set to expire July 1, 2013.

But Gov. Jay Inslee proposed in his 2013 state budget plan that the tax continue beyond its expiration date – and that the tax be expanded to all breweries, even the micros.

Small brewers turned out at the state Capitol on Monday to lobby lawmakers against the Inslee proposal. The Senate budget proposal lets the beer tax increase expire on June 30, but the House budget proposal comes out Wednesday. The beer tax is likely to be debated until a final state budget is adopted; the legislative session is set to end April 28.

The beer industry even set up a Web page with a clock that ticks the house and minutes until the state’s temporary beer tax is supposed to expire. To visit that page, click here.