The United States Congress came back to work last week after the long August recess. There will be a lot on their plate this fall before a likely adjournment in December. ACSA Board Member Nicole Austin (Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn, New York) and our Washington Lobbyist Jim Hyland (Pennsylvania Avenue Group, Washington DC) did not waste time and got right down to business when Congress returned.
First, they visited with the staff of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) who is the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee. Also, he is the author of S. 1562 a comprehensive bill altering the Federal Excise Tax (FET) for beer, wine and craft spirits. His legislation would reduce the FET for craft producers (as Congress defines it as those who produce 100,000 proof gallons or less) to $2.70. The Senator is very intent on trying to move this legislation and gain as many co-sponsors as he can. He also believes that the spirits, beer, and wine industries are better linked together than separately as a legislative approach. We made clear we support the craft spirits provision in his bill, but that we consider our industry first in line for tax relief. As we all know beer and wine already allow for small producers to have a reduced tax rate. We emphasized the unfairness of our present situation and that without the tax structure being addressed soon, it will hurt the growth of our craft distilling industry. And, ultimately, it will stagnant the economy surrounding this sector.
Nicole and Jim also met with the staff of Senator Chuck Schumer, Nicole’s home state Senator from New York. We encouraged the Senator to move our issue to the front of the line when it comes to FET reform. His staff agreed. This is a follow-up to the dinner that Ralph Erenzo, ACSA board member from Tuthilltown Distillery in Gardiner, NY and Nicole attended, with the Senator in May. The Senator has visited New York State distilleries before and more visits are planned. He will be the next Senate Democratic leader, so his support will be invaluable in years to come.
Based on significant work being done by the Montana distillers, we also had the opportunity to meet personally with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT). He told us that he had recently visited a small distiller in his state and wants to be very supportive of our industry.
The same is true for Montana’s senior Senator, Jon Tester (D-MT). He is interested in starting a Senate Caucus devoted to Craft Distilling. Nicole and Jim met with his staff last week to begin planning the Caucus. The staff is reconfirming the Senator’s interest and we will have more news to report in the coming weeks.
Our plea to you: If any member of Congress – either House or Senate – visited your distillery this past year, PLEASE tell us. We will make extra efforts to visit their offices and ask for their support on bills to lower the FET.
More Washington DC visits are in our future. We will keep you informed of our progress on the FET front. If you will be in the DC area and wish to join us, let us know that too.
Send ACSA’s Legislative Affairs Committee an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org