FRANKFORT, Kentucky – Kentucky bourbon industry officials stood shoulder-to-shoulder Tuesday and poured spirits on the state Capitol's front steps to protest a proposed 6-percent sales tax on all booze.
"They've always been taxing us to death over the years," said Jimmy Russell, master distiller at Lawrenceburg, Kentucky-based Wild Turkey, moments after pouring out an entire bottle of bourbon into a pile of melting snow.
Beer and bourbon trucks circled the Capitol all morning. A few hundred people holding signs and wearing stickers gathered in the Rotunda to shout their opposition.
But lawmakers on the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee weren't swayed. They're staring down a projected $456 million revenue shortfall for the next fiscal year. They approved the tax measure, which includes doubling the state's cigarette tax from 30 to 60 cents a pack.
The bill will still have to go through the full House and Senate before it heads to Gov. Steve Beshear. But the Democratic governor, Republican Senate President David Williams and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo all support some form of the tax plan.
"They've got a right to do what they feel like that they have to do, but I don't think it really changed anybody's minds," Stumbo said of the industry protesters.
Beshear said the vote showed a commitment by House and Senate leaders to resolve the state's budget problems.
"By this action, they have indicated their willingness to make the difficult choices necessary to preserve the priorities I articulated — and values we all share — education, health care for our most vulnerable and public safety," he said in a statement.