COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.-- Senator Chuck Schumer visited Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown Tuesday afternoon to promote something he rarely does anymore: co-sponsor legislation.
"I don't co-sponsor many bills given my leadership role in the Senate," Schumer said. "You're not supposed to. But I feel so passionately about this one, I am."
Schumer visited the brewery to promote his new legislation, which would make the excise tax cuts introduced in the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) permanent for small brewers producing fewer than two million barrels of beer annually.
The CBMTRA was passed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, approved by Republican lawmakers. Though Schumer didn't vote for the overall bill, he felt taxpayers would benefit from the craft brewing portion.
"One of the very few positive provisions in the new tax law, which I thought was not aimed at the middle class enough, was the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act," Schumer said. "The problem was, we could only get it to be extended through 2019. So the first thing our bill does is make it permanent."
Before CBMTRA, small brewers paid $7 in federal excise taxes on the first 60,000 barrels produced annually. CBMTRA lowered the tax to $3.50 per barrel, the rate Schumer said will help create jobs if solidified.
"That's great money and it's one of the most effective tax breaks you can do, because it really creates new jobs, which some of these tax breaks don't," Schumer said.
Schumer is also including more funding for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in his bill. TTB is a federal agency that reviews permit applications submitted by breweries looking to expand their product lines. If Schumer's legislation is passed, that funding will allow more federal inspectors to review the growing number of applications accompanying the craft brewery boom in New York.
"I think the process is archaic and one of the things we intend to look at as we get them more money is speeding up the process," Schumer said.
Schumer said he has bipartisan support for the bill and said he would provide NEWSChannel 2 with a list of the Republican lawmakers in favor of the bill. The goal is to pass it along with the Omnibus spending bill in October.
"Excise tax relief translates directly into capital improvement or jobs," Doug Campbell, Brewery Ommegang's president said. "If there's one thing about craft brewing, it's growing like crazy, so we always have needs for new equipment, new facilities."
It's that fast pace that prevents high-level brewery employees from taking the tax relief for themselves.
"It cascades all the way through the system and we put the money right to work," Campbell said. "This is not a high-margin, high white collar business where you have folks that are just going to pocket it."
Local elected officials in Otsego County hope the bill will boost the economy and restore the region's hop farming business, which experienced a drop-off in the early 20th century.
"There's a long history, as the senator mentioned, of hops in Otsego County and we'd just like to see it come back and be a leading producer," David Bliss, chair of the Otsego County Board of Legislators said.
"It's dining, it's tourism, it's the tours they do, concerts," Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said. "This is an incredible impact that these businesses, these craft breweries are having on our local economic area."
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