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Liquor commissioners reject surcharge on distilled spirits

 Posted: 3:55 PM June 12, 2013

PORTLAND — Good news for those who like booze. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission today narrowly rejected placing an additional 25-cent-a-bottle surcharge on the price of distilled spirits.

If the surcharge had passed, it would have raised a projected $16.2 million for the upcoming two-year state budget cycle. Though not a tremendous amount of money in a budget that will top $15 billion, it was revenue legislators had been counting on.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, the chief budget writer in the House, said lawmakers wanted to use the money to increase spending on law enforcement, the judiciary and health care. The money would have helped cover the societal costs of excessive alcohol consumption, he said.

"It's definitely not a plus that this went down," Buckley said.

Liquor commissioners Michael Harper, Rob Patridge and Bob Rice opposed the fee in a vote taken by conference call. Commissioners Cass Skinner and Pamela Weatherspoon supported it.

The commissioners, all of whom were appointed to their posts by either Gov. John Kitzhaber or former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, have the legal authority to approve surcharges on liquor without the electoral fear of angering voters. But the commissioners who rejected the added fee said the Legislature is ideally the body that should handle taxation.

Commissioners recently extended a temporary 50-cent surcharge that has been in effect since April 2009.

— Associated Press

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