June 2ND, 2009 the Michigan Brewer’s Guild had it’s first ever legislative day, when 18 members of the guild went to the State Capitol in Lansing, MI and talked directly to State Senators and Representatives. I was asked to come along.
There are a few major issues that the industry is looking into. One of the highest,on my list is the possible hike in the excise tax (a.k.a. sin tax). With lawmakers looking for ways to make money for the state, they are looking toward the businesses that are doing well. Since the car companies are most likely on deaths door, the breweries are getting attention, but not the good kind. Following record material cost increases in hops and malted barley for the last 2 years, the raising of taxes would most-likely bring many of the smaller breweries to their knees if not break them altogether. Where did the focus on “Main Street” go? The federal excise tax, taxes only beers that have over 4.5% abv. That means the big breweries AB and Miller/Coors products (who make up 95% of beer sold in the U.S.) will not receive this tax hike(?).
Most of these breweries are growing, right now. Employing communities, using local resources, and driving their surrounding economies. Doesn’t this sound like a business that many politicians were leading their campaigns with last summers?
Now a smart thing to do for Michigan might be to get behind the breweries much like they have with the film industry. By giving breaks to the film companies, this state is now a destination for more and more movies. Even Al Pacino is doing a film in Michigan this year and this is good. Maybe giving some of those same tax breaks to our breweries could do even greater things. If breweries were able to expand and employ more people, wouldn’t that increase the amount of tax dollars the state receives and also get some out of work Michiganders off of government assistance? Give Michigan farmers incentives to grow hops and/or barley and keep some of the money that breweries spend on raw materials, right here in the state. Lending money to a community to build a grain refinery where an automotive plant used to be and create a circle supply chain here in this state; most of the breweries give or trade their spent grain to cattle or pig farmers.
We have over 70 different breweries that want to stay here, unlike the movie business, these breweries have roots and aren’t in and out in just a few months. Our beer culture in Michigan is something other states wish they had. Let’s keep Michigan beer on the National map, write your State and Federal politicians and make sure that they remember their own words about helping local businesses.