Wyoming legislators want higher beer tax

Mmm, beer (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mmm, beer. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

When businessman Arte Moreno bought the Anaheim Angels in 2003, he had a sure-fire way to win over fans: He lowered beer prices. And even today, he’s hugely popular among Angels fans.

If lowering beer prices is a way to boost your approval rating, what happens when you raise beer prices? Members of the Wyoming legislature may be on track to find out.

Members of the House and Senate revenue committees will hold a hearing in Buffalo, a small town north of Casper at the intersection of Interstates 90 and 25, to debate a proposal that would increase the state beer tax. The added revenue would be used to fund substance abuse treatment, under a proposal advanced by state Sen. Ray Peterson (R).

At the hearing, state officials will report on how much it costs to collect the higher taxes. There’s some question as to whether the costs of collecting the tax would be greater than the actual additional revenue a higher tax would generate.

But they’re sure not collecting much revenue at the moment. Wyoming taxes beer at a rate of just two cents per gallon, the lowest beer tax in the nation. That’s a rate far below Texas, Colorado, California, New York and other top beer-producing states, according to data compiled by the Tax Foundation.

Wyoming hasn’t raised its beer tax since 1935, back when two cents would have led to a notable increase in the price of the average beer. If the tax were adjusted for inflation, it would stand at 34 cents per gallon today — though no one is proposing it rise that high. Instead, the legislature wants a tax increase that would amount to less than a penny per 12-ounce longneck.

Maybe after the hearing, legislators can head down the street for a pint. Buffalo is home to Clear Creek Brewery, one of Wyoming’s 15 breweries, according to the Beer Institute [pdf].

Beer Taxes by State, 2013:

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