Illinois Reduces Funding for Wine Industry
The beleaguered State of Illinois recently cut $142,500 in funding for the state’s wine industry, according to Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) president Bruce Morgenstern. The lost State Department of Agriculture funding was used for two important wine industry programs. The first cutback is the Illinois State Enologist, Brad Beam, whose status is now uncertain. The lost funds were also used to support viticulture extension programs and research at the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University.
Beam said that he’s disappointed with the decision because it’s a setback to Illinois wine. “Illinois wine quality has come so far in recent years,” he said. “The state’s wine specialists help minimize a lot of the growing pains as the number of Illinois wineries continues to increase.” (Illinois now has 126 wineries, a 50% increase since 2009.)
Despite the setback, Morgenstern and the IGGVA will continue to push for state funding for Illinois wineries and grape growers. “We have a substantial following in the state legislature and our number one priority is promoting the value of Illinois wine in Springfield,” he said. “However, everyone knows these are difficult times in Illinois so we must redouble our efforts to show how much the wine industry does to help the Illinois economy state-wide.”
The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association continues to receive funds through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Also, a portion of the IGGVA’s income comes from sponsored events and membership fees according to Morgenstern.
Illinois assesses an excise tax of $1.39 per gallon on wine production, one of highest wine excise taxes in the nation. None of this excise tax revenue supports Illinois wine according to Morgenstern. Many midwestern states like Michigan, Missouri and Indiana have successfully used a portion of state wine and liquor taxes or fee revenue to support their state’s wine industries. Morgenstern said that the political climate in Illinois is currently not conducive to asking for any existing state tax revenue.
Publisher’s note: The wine industry in Illinois is one of the few bright spots in a state with the worst credit rating in the United States. Working against Illinois wineries are high wine excise taxes that drive Illinois residents to purchase wine in other states. Even worse, none of that wine tax revenue is reinvested in an industry that is actually creating jobs in Illinois. Hopefully, the Illinois legislature will someday come to understand that wine tourism attracts out-of-state revenue and brings economic development to rural areas that desperately need jobs. (Midwest Wine Press is an Illinois based LLC.)