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Capitol Report: Bipartisan group asks Walker to veto beer distribution bill

Capitol Report: Bipartisan group asks Walker to veto beer distribution bill

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State legislators are trying to get Gov. Walker to veto a provision in the state budget that they say would hurt state craft brewers, such as the New Glarus Brewing Company.

A bipartisan group of seven lawmakers stepped in on the side of the state's craft brewers Tuesday, asking Gov. Scott Walker to veto a bill that favors beer distributors and MillerCoors.

The bill, which was stuck into the budget without a public hearing, would solidify the state's three-tier beer system by preventing brewers, distributors and any retail outlet that sells beer from owning a license to operate in more than one of these business categories.

Specifically, the state's small craft brewers could no longer have a brewer's license and a distribution license, a restriction they say would stifle their ability to grow and hurt their future profitability.

The letter to Walker reads, in part:

"As the number of big distributors shrinks, we have to ensure that these small business people are allowed to wholesale (distribute) each others' products and grow. In addition, this budget provision will negatively affect new contract brewers by forcing them to change their business models and hurt their chances of survival. Paralyzing legitimate small businesses this way should not be the policy of a state we all want to be ‘Open for Business.'"

The letter was sent by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend; Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau; Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar; Republican representatives Evan Wynn and Stephen Nass of Whitewater; Joseph Knilans of Janesville; and Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison.

For more background on the bill, click here

Deb Carey, co-owner of New Glarus Brewing Co. and a member of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, called the bill on Tuesday a "regulatory job killer."

"Anyone who says otherwise is lying through their teeth," Carey added.

She said most people understand Walker wants to be fiscally responsible and create jobs.

"Whether or not he vetoes this bill will be a very telling sign of who this guy really is," she said.

Cullen Werwie, a Walker spokesman, said in an email Tuesday that the governor will "evaluate that provision and make any veto-related announcements once the decisions have been finalized."

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A provision in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would treat brewers of all sizes equally by preventing them from owning or operating a wholesale distributor. “Everything in this bill is designed to make it harder for small craft brewers to grow,” says Deb Carey, a co-owner of New Glarus Brewing.