Oregon Recover wants 20% Increase in Alcohol Taxes

As the new legislative session opens on Jan. 24, Oregon Recover is finalizing a bill which would raise excise taxes on beer, wine, and spirits. 

Michael Marshall is executive director and co-founder of Oregon Recovers, a statewide coalition which builds a movement of people in recovery and those around them to fight addiction. In his proposed legislation, Marshall seeks more money to deal with the prevention and treatment of substance abuse disorder. 

In the past two years, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) received $519 million in tax revenues, out of which $18 million was apportioned to Mental Health Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program. Marshall and state Representative Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland), a chair of the House Committee on Behavioral Health, are looking to raise liquor prices by 20%. In total, the bill would increase OLCC tax revenue to $746 million over the next two years. 

The hope is that more of the funds will be assigned to the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission program in an effort to reduce underage and binge drinking, which Governor Kate Brown deemed a “public health crisis.” The funds are to be used for prevention, on-demand treatment, and follow up support for those who finish the initial treatment. 

Currently, the tax on a gallon of wine in Oregon is $0.67, which is the 26th highest in the nation. For a gallon of beer, the tax is $0.008 – the 45th highest. Hard liquor is taxed at $21.98 per gallon, which makes Oregon the second highest in the nation. 

In Feb. of 2020, advocates and medical professionals spoke about the state’s addiction crisis at the Health Forum, an affiliate of The Lund Report, at a breakfast meeting at the Multnomah Athletic Club. Marshall, who attended the meeting, spoke of his disappointment with the outcome as no significant action took place.   

Even though nobody disputes the urgency of addressing the crisis, lobbying efforts from over 900 wineries, 400 breweries, 100 cideries, and 73 distributors peppering every district raise significant challenges to the legislation. 

By Joanna Rosinska