Joshua Dillen
The Baker City Herald

Congressman Greg Walden paid a visit to Barley Brown’s Taphouse to tour the Baker City microbrewery and talk taxes with its owners Thursday.

“Pallet Jack is our flagship beer,” said Tyler Brown to Walden as the clang of kegs being moved around and strong smells of yeast and barley wafted through the building.

Pallet Jack is an India pale ale (IPA) beer that head brewer Eli Dickison said they were “kegging up.”

Baker County Commissioners Bill Harvey and Bruce Nichols were present as Brown and Walden talked about the benefits of the tax package that was passed late last year.

Walden said one of its main benefits was to microbreweries.

“We cut the excise tax in half on up to 60,000 barrels,” Walden said. “It cut it from seven bucks to three and a half .”

Brown said the brewery produced 5,500 barrels last year.

“It’s sure going to be nice next quarter when I write a check for half the size,” Brown said. “It’ll free up about $20,000 yearly.”

He said that will allow him to reinvest in his business or pay down debt. He said he would rather buy a new piece of equipment that’s on his wish list than give those dollars to Uncle Sam.

Brown pointed out that there is also a state excise tax of $2.60 per barrel.

Other parts of the federal tax package that might not benefit Brown are cuts to the tax rate his business would see as an S corporation from around 35 percent to 21 percent because of recent legislation in Oregon.

If the governor signs a bill passed by the state Legislature into law this year, Brown’s company would pay a higher tax rate because the bill “disconnects” Oregon businesses from the federal tax code. Without the bill, current Oregon tax law dictates that state taxes mirror federal taxes.

Brown said he’ll wait and see how he is affected by the new state and federal tax codes when he files his taxes.

He said his focus is elsewhere.

“We pay attention to beer,” Brown said.

Harvey said while the federal tax package is a huge step in the right direction, the Oregon bill — if signed into law — effectively negates the benefits Brown would see.

“That’s going to hurt us dramatically,” he said. “The U.S. government giveth and Oregon state taketh away.”

Nichols agreed and said the Oregon tax bill has the potential to run businesses out of the state.

“It’s pretty sad, it really is,” he said.

Nichols said the current presidential administration’s commitment to getting rid of burdensome regulations benefits business and is more important than taxes.

“We have a president that’s business-friendly,” he said. “Unfortunately, Oregon doesn’t want to participate.”

Brown said for his industry, the current regulatory environment is pretty easy to deal with.

Walden pointed out that President Donald Trump said that for every new regulation written at a federal level, two would be repealed, but in actuality, there have been 22 repealed for each new one.

See more in the Friday, March 30 issue of the Baker City Herald.