Brewing Turmoil over Tax Legislation Proposal

Brewing Turmoil over Tax Legislation Proposal
Lola Rizer

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Governor Jim Justice has been campaigning hard for his legislation to restructure the state’s tax system.  The headline is that it would eliminate state income taxes…he says that’s going to put more hard-earned money back into the pockets of West Virginians but where do you adjust or the state income. Calling it pulling the rope – the cost of running the state would go to increased taxes on soft drinks, tobacco, beer, and wine.  The move according to some business industry officials would give  West Virginia the highest state consumer sales tax in the nation at 7.9 percent.    This means while you will not be paying state income taxes you will be paying more for the product goods and services that you use.  Also, there would be a variety of tax increases on soft drinks tobacco beer, and wine among other things, and what kind of pressure does that put on small businesses more specifically West Virginia breweries.  

There are 24 Craft Breweries in West Virginia and if this legislation moves forward they would be looking at a 431 % increase of taxes per barrel –  and that could lead to some hard choices.

I spoke with Aryn Fonda of Weathered Ground Brewery and Jeff Frizell of Greenbrier Valley Brewing company those are not the decisions they wanting to make. 

Jeff Frizell production manager for greenbrier valley brewing company says that having to eliminate staff would probably happen

Aryn Fonda has similar concerns saying that they could potentially cancel plans for an expansion and move production out of state

According to the brewers guild, not all of the tax increases can be distributed among products to the consumer. Contracts negotiated with distributors are at a set rate and could not absorb a tax increase of over $20.00 per barrel.

Breweries are a hot tourism destination as well.   According to the national brewers association, The Craft Brewing Industry Contributed $82.9 Billion to the U.S. Economy in 2019, with more than 580,000 Jobs. Small and independent American craft brewers.  Craft Brew Tourism is also a growing market.   So the tax could potentially hurt tourism in the area as well if brewers are forced to close their door and move out of state.  Which is an effect opposite of what the governor intends.

The guild is looking for the public’s help to keep them brewing. They are asking the community to reach out to the representatives letting them know what the brewery means to them.  Fonda also asks organizations that have had fundraisers with the breweries to let legislators know how they support their communities.  

To find out more you can contact Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company or Weathered Ground Brewery via their social media pages.  

WWNR has reached out to the Governor’s office for comment.  We will continue to follow this developing story.

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