For more evidence of American society—and breakfast—crumbling before our eyes, consider this: Last week, the Oregon House Committee on Revenue introduced a bill to impose a five cent per pound coffee tax on wholesale beans and grounds. Why? Oregon has a $1.8 billion budget gap, and the state needs to raise money to help close it. House Bill 2875, which would go into effect July 1, 2018, if passed, could, according to the Willamette Week’s rough calculation, raise about $2 million a year. Specifically, the coffee tax money would go toward supporting alternative high schools and reading programs in primary schools. Worthy causes, to be sure, but Oregonians aren’t having it. Portland Tribune reporter Paris Achen called the coffee tax “political suicide," and state Republicans were quick to denounce the bill.
“There are a lot of things Oregonians like with their coffee—a tax is not one of them,” House Republican Leader Mike McLane said in a statement, according to the Washington Times. “This proposal is regressive, it is poor public policy, and it deserves to be shelved just as quickly as it was introduced.”
Oregon is crazy about coffee. According to one study, Portland is the third most caffeinated city in the country, based on the number of coffee shops per capita. That fact alone might make a coffee tax unpopular in the state. The specifics of this particular coffee tax, though, may make it especially unsavory, the Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss writes, because it doesn’t create a logical link between the tax and services it funds.
“Property taxes, for instance, pay for schools, public safety and parks, all of which are services property owners either use or support. The relationship between coffee consumption and alternative education is less clear,” he wrote.
The bill needs a three-fifths majority from the Oregon House of Representatives and Senate in order to pass, but the idea may already be dead in the water. On Friday, a spokesman for the House Democrats told the Willamette Week that the bill is unlikely to move forward. If it were to gain traction, however, things could get ugly for the state’s coffee addicts. Twitter user Bob Beck may have imagined the most likely scenario: