Beer tax threatens Budweiser plant in Lysander

Governor David Paterson wants to raise the excise tax on beer from the current 11 cents a gallon to 24 cents a gallon. According to the state budget department, it would raise the cost of a six pack by six and a half cents, while raising millions to help offset the state budget deficit.

The company that owns the Budweiser plant in Lysander near Baldwinsville sees the tax in a much more ominous way. Last year when Inbev took over Anheuser-Busch, it promised to keep all 12 breweries in the U.S. open, as long as there are no new taxes that could hurt business. A statement released by Anheuser-Busch implies that the future of the plant and 815 jobs are at stake.

In the statement, the manager of the Lysander plant, Steve McCormick said the company is "extremely disappointed that Governor Paterson...did not include the beer tax increase" when he decided to eliminate other proposed tax hikes. McCormick called it a "shortsighted proposal that will threaten many good paying jobs."

Onondaga County Legislator Richard Lesniak represents the Lysander area. He says the beer tax actually targets the Budweiser plant, because micro-breweries and smaller breweries would be exempt. "It's not a sales tax, it's a production tax that Inbev or Anheuser-Busch would have to pay based on their gallons of production." Lesniak adds, "This is the only brewery it could be affecting in New York."

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney released a statement this afternoon. "The Governor is risking the loss of 815 jobs... " She adds: "The impact of this tax goes far beyond a revenue generating measure."

Assemblyman Will Barclay who represents Lysander also issued a statement saying he is "very disappointed..." and is "also concerned about wine makers" in New York. Barclay said: "I fear both jobs and businesses will find somewhere ...less costly to do business."

Steve McCormick, the Plant Manager of the Anheuser-Busch Baldwinsville Brewery, said in a statement "For more than a decade, Anheuser-Busch TMs contracts with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have stipulated that all 12 of its U.S. breweries will remain open so long as there are no new or increased federal or state excise taxes or other unforeseen events that would negatively impact the business."

Lesniak is drafting a resolution to go before the Onondaga County Legislature officially calling upon Governor Paterson to drop the beer tax. The Governor's budget office has not yet responded to Lesniak's claims.