News Releases

Senator Murray Defends Washington’s Wine Industry Against New “Taxes”

Apr 27 2005

Senator presses Treasury Secretary Snow about Bush Administration’s proposed user fees

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – United States Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) yesterday stood up for the wine industry in Washington state by posing tough questions for Treasury Secretary John Snow at a hearing of the Senate Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development (TTHUD) Appropriations Subcommittee. Senator Murray, ranking Democrat on the subcommittee and a strong supporter of Washington’s wine industry, spoke out against new fees proposed by the Bush administration under the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

“Over the past few years, Washington state has built a world-renowned wine industry through hard work, research, and creativity,” Murray said. “These vineyards are providing jobs for communities that have struggled. They're bringing tourists to many parts of our state, and they are helping our economy. We should be investing in this industry instead of imposing new fees on it.”

TTB, charged with the regulation of the alcohol and tobacco industries, collects approximately $15 billion annually in alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition excise taxes. The new user fees proposed by the Bush Administration include filing fees for Certificate of Label Approvals (COLAs), proposed formulas, and permit applications under the assumption that the industry should pay for services it receives from TTB. The fees would be proposed in legislation soon to be forwarded to Congress by the administration.

However, in yesterday’s hearing, Murray argued that the new fees are not directly related to service provided to the industry by TTB. While the Secretary was not familiar with the details of the TTB proposal, he stated in general terms that user fees should be assessed when government agencies provide beneficial services to businesses.

“I am told there is no direct relationship between the actual services the winemaking industry receives from TTB and the fees you now want to impose upon them,” Murray said to Snow. “Wouldn’t you agree that if there is no correlation, these really are new taxes instead of user fees? The domestic wine industry already pays nearly $550 million in Federal excise taxes every year. How did your agency come to the conclusion that the industry needed to pay more Federal fees?” she asked.

Snow again responded with a general statement about the requirement that industry pay for benefits it receives from the government. He promised to look into delays in processing of online applications by Washington wine companies

Over the past decade, wine has become a $2.4 billion industry in Washington state. There are now over 300 wineries in Washington state – nearly double the number five years ago – and their production has doubled over the past decade, with wine grapes now the state's 4th largest fruit crop. The industry supports more than 11,000 related jobs.

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