U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin toasted the health of Frederick County small business Monday with a glass of local beer.
Cardin (D) enjoyed the beer with area business owners after touring the Flying Dog facilities in Frederick. It was far from the first time Cardin has visited a brewery, said the senator, adding that he's proud of his appreciation for a good ale.
"I think I've drunk more beer than any other member of the Senate," Cardin said.
During Cardin's visit, members of the local craft beer industry spoke to him about legislation that would reduce excise taxes for small brewers, or companies producing less than 2 million barrels a year. Brewers in general are now taxed at $18 per barrel of beer. Small brewers get a reduced rate of $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels before they start paying the full rate. Cardin's bill would cut tax rates to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels made by small brewers. The tax rate then would increase to $16 for any additional barrels of beer they produce.
Jim Caruso, general partner and CEO of Flying Dog, said the excise tax paid by beer-makers comes in addition to the regular corporate taxes they must put up. Devoting such a large slice of revenue to taxes can prevent businesses from expanding and creating new jobs, he said.
"It constricts your ability to reinvest in business," Caruso said.
Cardin has supported the Small BREW Act for the past two years, but this is the first time he has been lead sponsor for the legislation, his representative said.
Because the act is a small piece of legislation, it is unlikely to pass as a stand-alone bill, Caruso said. Its best chance for success is to get attached to a larger proposal, like a tax bill, he said.
Cardin said adjusting the excise taxes would promote the development of the state's craft brewing industry.
"When I grew up, brewing in Maryland was a huge industry. We lost most of it, but now, it's coming back," he said.
During Monday's town hall-style discussion with local business representatives, Cardin also fielded questions about the Affordable Care Act and how environmental regulations are affecting farmers.
Tom Barse, a farmer from Mount Airy, said nutrient management programs are worrying to the agricultural community, who believe overly onerous regulations could drive them out of business.
"We're scared," he said.
Cardin said he believes officials must find common-sense ways of preserving the environment. Nutrient trading programs are one way to support cleanup efforts without burdening farmers, he said.
He agreed with another business owner that the government should reach out to small businesses to help them understand the Affordable Care Act.
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