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Murray Protects Washington Wine Against Proposed Taxes

Jul 19 2005

Senator successfully prevents inclusion of new “user fees” in Senate bill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today stood up for Washington’s wine industry as she succeeded in fighting the inclusion of unfair user fees in the Senate Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development (TTHUD) Appropriations Bill. Murray, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee and a strong supporter of Washington’s wine industry, kept the proposed fees out of the bill because they would have had a negative impact on the state’s burgeoning new wine industry.

The fees, proposed by the Bush administration under the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), included filing fees for Certificate of Label Approvals (COLAs), proposed formulas, and permit applications under the assumption that the wine industry should pay for services it receives from TTB. These fees would be a particular burden for small wineries.

“Winning the fight against the Administration’s unfair fees is great news for Washington state wine,” Murray said. “Through hard work, research, and creativity Washington state has built a world-class wine industry. We need to invest in the infrastructure and resources to help our wineries grow, not saddle them with fees that impede progress, economic development and future tourism.”

Earlier this year, Murray questioned Treasury Secretary John Snow about the relevance of these fees since there is no direct relationship between them and the services provided to the wine industry by TTB and arguing that they were nothing more than an new tax on a domestic industry that already pays nearly $550 million in Federal excise taxes every year.

“Washington state vineyards are providing jobs for communities that have struggled. They are bringing tourists to rural regions of our state and they are helping our economy. I will continue to work to ensure that our wine industry has the resources and protections it needs to continue to grow and develop,” Murray said.

Over the past decade wine has become a $2.4 billion industry in Washington state. The state now boasts over 300 wineries – nearly double the number just five years ago. Washington wine production has also doubled over the past decade with wine grapes comprising the state’s fourth largest fruit crop. The Washington wine industry supports more than 11,000 related jobs.

As a member of the Congressional Wine Caucus, Senator Murray has helped secure millions of dollars in research and infrastructure improvements to strengthen Washington’s wine industry. In recent years she has used her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure $850,000 to support viticulture research throughout the Northwest, $8.4 million to widen U.S. Highway 12 which will increase tourism in southeast Washington, and $250,000 to support the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.

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