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Tom Purcell: Cheers to Lower Beer Taxes

Like or hate the Republican tax-reform plan, here’s one thing we can all cheer: Beer taxes are going down.

According to Business Insider, Senate Republicans included an amendment to their tax plan that “reduces craft brewers’ excise tax from $7 per barrel to just $3.50 per barrel on their first 60,000 barrels ... The amendment would also cut excise taxes for bigger brewers from $18 a barrel to $16 a barrel.”

This is good news for the beer industry — and the entrepreneurs and employees who make their living innovating tasty new beverages — as it marks a monumental change that will benefit us all.

“Sin taxes,” you see, have long been fashionable among lawmakers because they target behaviors and activities — alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, etc. — that many people would like to curb.

Sin taxes, and other government restrictions, have annoyed my family for a long time.

During Prohibition, my Great Grandma Purcell had to install a distillery in her basement so she and her adult children could enjoy a few adult beverages during their Saturday night card games.

Just before Prohibition ended in 1933, Pennsylvania created the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for the express purpose, according to WHYY.org, of “discouraging the purchase of alcoholic beverages ‘by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible.’”

The rules governing the purchase of adult spirits were rigid and strict — in Pennsylvania, the only place you could purchase wine or spirits was at a handful of state-controlled liquor stores. Beer could only be purchased at the beer distributor.

For many years, that made it harder and a lot costlier for my grandfather, father and me to enjoy beer, wine and hooch — woes that have continued to worsen as sin taxes have continued to go up.

Consider: The current $18-a-barrel tax on beer dates back to 1990, when a Democrat Congress, despite a great hue and cry, doubled it.

In 2007, Allegheny County enacted a 10 percent increase on countywide alcohol consumption, since reduced to 7 percent, to cover a budget shortfall with its Port Authority.

For years, you see, federal, state and local governments have looked to increase taxes on beer, wine and hooch to shrink budget shortfalls or generate more dough to fund new programs.

But Senate Republicans are finally going to give us some beer-tax relief! That’s good news for the American worker. According to Newsweek, the “beer industry supports 22 million jobs in America and the American wine industry has a total economic impact of nearly $220 billion.”

It’s certainly good news for craft-beer entrepreneurs, who will enjoy significant cost reductions in their bottom lines, allowing them to innovate ever more enjoyable brews.

And that will benefit the rest of us.

Look, better beer is good for our society.

It is because people know they will be rewarded for a long, productive week at work with a fine-crafted pint of beer that they work even harder, a boon to the economy.

Beer keeps communities together. In these divided times, in which people of different political persuasions shout and argue, a few cold ones can soften our hard edges and promote increased civility.

From my point of view, less government intrusion — by way of lower tax burdens — is a good thing for us all. Our companies and citizens should be able to keep more of their hard-earned dough and spend it as they wish. That’s why I support the Republican plan to reduce and simplify taxes across the board.

As for politicians who are continually looking to increase our taxes and expand government reach, I offer some advice.

Why don’t you enjoy a tasty craft beer and give the rest of us a break.

Tom Purcell, author of Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood and Wicked Is the Whiskey: A Sean McClanahan Mystery, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist, syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @PurcellTom. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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