W.Va. breweries express concerns over new tax bill

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ELKINS, W.Va. – Governor Jim Justice wants to get rid of the state’s personal income tax to grow the economy, but if he does that he’s suggesting a increase in sales tax rates.

Companies that will take the brunt of that tax are local breweries.

“So last year in taxes we paid about $20,000 in state excise tax. If this new bill gets introduce that’ll jump up to $117,000 in just state excise tax,” Brian Reymiller, Director of operations for Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company said.

House Bill 2027 proposes that for every barrel of beer a brewery makes the brewery will have to pay a tax on it. Right now the tax on each barrel is around $5 but this bill wants to increase it to $29.25.

That’s more than a 400% increase.

For most breweries, if the state tax increases for them, then their customers will see an increase in draft and canned beer.

“We’ll have to directly increase prices to accommodate that, and that going to be at least ten cents a glass,” Matt Kwasniewski, co-owner of Big Timber Brewing Company, said. “A lot of our beer, you can find a four-pack for eight or nine bucks, and if that gets pushed over ten dollars now, many people will see that and pass it up and go with something that’s a little cheaper.”

Some Breweries are already dealing with low sales because of high prices in stores.

“We feel the heat from that already. If you look at Kroger and see my beer or Greenbrier beers, and they’re like, ‘wow, that expensive, you know why is it so high?’ We’re already kind of high cause we’re small,” Reymiller said. “I have to pay more for my malt. I have to pay more for my hops, so in turn, we have to charge more.”

Other breweries won’t have the option to raise their prices – they will just be forced out of business or the state

“We have a choice with this tax declare bankruptcy or move to another state,” Roger Johnson, co-owner of Screeching Owl brewery, said.

But leaving the state means leave a state that they love.

“We’re born and bred. We are. I’m originally from Wood County, Parkersburg. Roger grew up in the Huntington – Barboursville area of Cabell County. We met at Glenville State College. We’re West Virginians. This is not a choice we want to make,” Crista Johnson, co-owner of Screeching Owl Brewery, detailed.

Some solutions these owners a thinking is making the state tax the same as the federal tax

“On the federal level, it’s tiered,” Ashley Kwasniewski, co-owner of Big Timber Brewery, said. “It’s just a blanket no matter how much beer you make, everyone pays the same, and if they wanna raise taxes, it would be – they could follow the federal structure of different tier sizes, and that‘d be the sales tax you pay.”

Those who would like to learn more about any of these local breweries and support them, head over to their websites that are linked below.

To read the full House Bill, click here.

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