Bad Faith Negotiating in Oregon’s Alcohol Debates

Proponents of increasing the State of Oregon’s alcohol taxes in a comically excessive way are becoming more creative and more faithless in their arguments for increasing the state taxes in an effort to fight alcohol dependency.

As a reminder, earlier in the year Oregon State Representatives Tawna Sanchez sponsored House Bill 3296. If passed, the bill would have increased the excise taxes on beer and cider in Oregon from $2.60 per barrel (31 gallons) to $72.60 per barrel. The increase in the wine excise tax in Oregon would go from $0.65 per gallon to $10.65 per gallon. Moreover, the tax would increase each year based on the change in the consumer price index.

The proposal was dismissed out of hand for being an absurdly excessive increase in the alcohol tax. No one argued that Oregon could not do more to address alcohol dependency. They simply argued that proposals to do so ought not roll into town in clown cars.

Now, proponents of taxing the Oregon alcohol industry and the state’s drinkers have evolved their approach to passing legislation that would create a commission to examine the question of tax increases. Fine. Not a bad idea. But here is the bad idea:

Se-ah-dom Edmo—co-chair of Oregon Recovers and Eddy Morales—Gresham city councilor, are arguing that the current tax rates on alcohol in the state contribute to systemic racism. This terrible bad faith argument goes like this:

Oregon’s alcohol tax policy, which favors the profits of an overwhelmingly white-owned industry over the painful consequences borne disproportionately by communities of color, sustains and promotes systemic racism and must be changed. Our sky-high untreated alcohol addiction rates ­– 5th in the nation – and near last-in-the-country access to treatment services contribute to an overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, tribal and other people of color in our prisons, foster homes and homeless encampments.

That communities of color are disproportionately impacted by alcohol addiction is not a function of racism or policies that support systemic racism, but rather a function of socio-economic issues. Alcohol dependency disproportionately impacts lower-income communities, which disproportionately includes communities of color. Why communities of color are disproportionately lower-income is an important question. But whatever the reasons they have nothing to do with the state’s alcohol tax.

The giveaway that this argument is made in bad faith is can be found in this sentence: “Oregon’s alcohol tax policywhich favors the profits of an overwhelmingly white-owned industry over the painful consequences borne disproportionately by communities of color…”

The implicit suggestion here is that the alcohol tax in Oregon is what it is because the alcohol industry is made up of a majority of white people and that if it were made up of a majority of people of color the taxes would be higher and presumably more just. The proponents of this argument know this isn’t true and they know their argument is deceptive. Yet they make the case anyway.

This kind of bad faith argument is deceptive in the extreme, supported by nothing but unsupported contention, and attempts to induce guilt in those who would oppose comically excessive tax increases. The people of Oregon and the Oregon wine industry should not just reject this form of coercion, but also insist that those who promote it don’t get anywhere near the coming negotiations over alcohol tax policy in the state for the simple reason that they can’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith. 


14 Responses

  1. Judy Parker - April 12, 2021

    I nearly choked when I read that editorial. It is a superficial argument without any real analysis or persuasion. Raising alcohol taxes – $10 a case! – would drive 85% of wineries out of business. It would therefore drive vineyards out of business. Who picks winegrapes? People of color. What agricultural product – by far – is the highest paid in Oregon piecemeal? Winegrapes. And the industry supports not only growers but the labor community, not only to improve access to health and justice, but also to create a pipeline from being a grower into being a winemaker. Imposing these taxes would, within 5 years, decimate the industry and destabilize and regress our intentional decades of community. SMH.

  2. Jim+Bernau - April 12, 2021

    Only a small percentage of the Oregon alcohol taxes currently collected go to alcohol treatment programs. Why aren’t the proponents focusing on getting a higher allocation of these funds?

  3. Tom Wark - April 12, 2021


    The argument is not just superficial, it’s blatantly false and largely incomprehensive. It’s a bad faith proposal and those making it should get nowhere near the negotiating table. Moreover, as your comment suggests, the argument gets nowhere near the economic reality of Oregon wine and the Oregon wine industry. A certain amount of shame should be felt here.

  4. Tom Wark - April 12, 2021


    Your suggestion makes way to much sense and addresses the issue directly. That apparantly isn’t the tack these two hacks want to take.

  5. Peter Ricci - April 12, 2021

    Working with state legislatures for decades on legislation I have learn that facts have no place in the discussion. What matters is agendas and re-election. This is a classic example of driving an agenda. The race card is played to get additional funding for minority agendas. Every major wine & spirits company supported black history month and this is the response the industry receives. The industry can never do enough for the minority agenda, just like the industry could never do enough for DUI agenda. Politicians want their pound of flesh every year, until they bleed you dry. Time for the wine & spirits industry to wise up to the political agenda lies.

  6. mike wanless - April 12, 2021

    I can’t believe you do not think this is a race problem. But then again I am a white wine drinker!

  7. Robert Gregory - April 13, 2021

    It’s impossible to remove politics from a discussion about taxation.

    My wine industry friends are starting to sound like my wall st friends. They preached the race narrative set by their political cohort and HR department until it hit their own tax return.. Oregon is treating their winemakers the same way politicians treat New Yorkers.

    It’s unfortunate that Pinot doesn’t do well in Austin.

  8. Bob Holmes - April 13, 2021

    Jim Bernau, as always, makes a lot of sense. Like mental illness, alcoholism is pushed under the social table. Neither receive enough government funding and the resulting problems affect us all profoundly. Reallocation of funds should be the priority but I guess that tack doesn’t win reelection!

  9. Linda Depaolo - April 13, 2021

    Alcoholism..caused by fine wine drinkers and winery owners…really??…homeless people and native Americans buy $10 plus bottles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to get buzzed on..not likely..I think the beer and malt liquor industry is the more likely supply line for their problems….but Oregon has a taxation problem and is very poorly governed..I moved in 2008..have an emerging winery in Arizona…a much more biz and tax friendly state. Good Luck.

  10. Donn Rutkoff - April 13, 2021

    Let’s see. Oregon is a very liberal Democrat state. (Last Repub. governor was elected in 1982. Last Repub Senator was in 2002, the 3 since have been Dems.) I doubt anyone would argue otherwise. So, why are the blacks and poor in the state in such bad condition, as per this quote “Our sky-high untreated alcohol addiction rates ­– 5th in the nation – and near last-in-the-country access to treatment services ” Dems have apparently not been very successful in accomplishing any of the do-gooder goals that all their tax and govt charity schemes are supposed to do. Not unusual. Blacks in Dem run cities have as bad or worse ghettos than before The Great Society of 60 years ago started dumping govt run charity ops into them. Govt is the worst type of institution to be running charity / do-gooder programs, because govt never ever measures its’ success rates, govt always wants to get bigger, it does not get bigger if it actually solves the problems it complains about. So, hand over the tax monies to religious charities or non-govt. community groups, no elected official should ever run any do-gooder program.

  11. Greg Jones - April 13, 2021

    Why not tax the lower-end products, which are the ones being consumed by the stated demographic? There are no Oregon wineries selling at these price points, are almost all from out of state producers.

  12. Tom Wark - April 13, 2021

    Dr. Jones:

    I believe your suggestion has not been considered…at all.


  13. Solara P - April 13, 2021

    I love these comments that wine drinkers don’t suffer from alcoholism. I worked as a DUII Counselor and was shocked at the number of (mostly women) who were chronic alcoholics and exclusively drank fine wine. They convinced themselves they didn’t have a problem because of the caliber of alcohol they preferred. And the reason we have such abysmal funding for treatment services here in Oregon? No sales tax and no alcohol tax increase since 1977.

  14. Donn Rutkoff - April 13, 2021

    Solara P: unfortunately is true, women wine drinkers are often drowning their troubles. Fine wine included. But if they drink fine wine, do they need to be cured with tax $ from the rest? And I wonder how they vote in liberal Oregon? And why do taxes always have to go up over time? In a growing economy, like the Willamette Valley, doesn’t tax revenue increase without raising tax rates?

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