Efforts to privatize alcohol sales fail again
Alcohol was on the minds of many Alabama lawmakers this year as the legislature considered an unusually high number of alcohol-related bills.
Several of the alcohol related bills have been passed. Most notable was legislation that allowed Alabama businesses to deliver beer, wine, and spirits to customers’ homes, and separate legislation that allows state residents to order wine directly from establishments. wineries, even if these producers are out of state.
One bill that did not pass was Senator Arthur Orr’s perennial bill to privatize ABC liquor stores. There are a number of reasons Alabamians are grateful that this legislation was not passed.
First, the budget of the General State Fund will benefit from the failure of this legislation. The proposed legislation would have resulted in higher prices, a loss of taxpayer dollars, lost jobs and less enforcement of alcohol laws.
For example, last year alone, the Alabama Alcohol Control Board contributed $ 314 million to the State General Fund and state agencies, according to information provided by the Board of ABC administration. This comes from the taxes and the mark-up on alcohol.
If you privatize liquor sales and close ABC stores, much of that revenue disappears, even after you factor in taxes generated by private stores. An analysis by ABC’s board of directors shows a net loss of $ 95 million per year.
Another reason to be grateful that the legislature refused to privatize alcohol sales is the fact that hundreds of jobs in the state have been saved by the failure of this legislation. ABC stores and the state warehouse are managed by more than 875 state employees. Most would have lost their jobs, health insurance and pensions if the bill had passed.
These employees take hours of training to ensure store security and prevent the sale of alcohol to minors. Dollars and cents aside, if you look at it from a health and safety perspective, Alabama is better off with state-regulated ABC stores controlling alcohol sales than private retailers. .
Speaking of private liquor stores, you can expect their numbers to increase significantly. If you consider all the grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retail chains, such as Walmart and Target, as well as the additional conditioning stores that will appear if liquor sales are privatized, the liquor outlets in the area. The state could go from around 850 currently to over 2,100. While there wouldn’t literally be a liquor store on every corner, it might look like it.
Also, studies and common sense indicate that the more stores you have selling alcohol, which will come with privatization, the more alcohol you will sell. More sales means more consumption, and more consumption means more health and safety issues. Alcohol isn’t just another commodity, and buying it shouldn’t be as easy as buying milk and bread.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that 95,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption. No drug kills as many people every year as alcohol.
The good news is that under our current alcohol control system, Alabama is doing much better than most states when it comes to alcohol use. As a state, we are among the lowest in terms of alcohol consumption and among the highest in terms of revenue from liquor taxes.
Finally, even if you look at privatization from a consumer’s point of view, it does not financially benefit the Alabamians to privatize alcohol sales. As anyone who has been to an ABC store and a private parcel store knows, the prices of private stores are much higher. If you close ABC stores, Alabamians will only have the higher prices in private stores.
While the legislation to privatize alcohol sales was well intentioned from a philosophical point of view, we should be grateful to our legislature for looking at the big picture. The state has little to gain, but much to lose by shutting down ABC stores.
The ABC Board is a valuable state agency, and the ABC stores provide our state with a great advantage in terms of tax revenue, hundreds of jobs in the state, and lower prices for Alabamians.
I have known for a long time the administrator of the board of directors of ABC, Mac Gipson. I know he runs a tight ship and it would be a shame to destroy him, so let’s hope the privatization of the liquor sale is definitely dead.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the Alabama Legislature. Readers can email him at [email protected]