To the editor:
New Hampshire has been in the liquor business since Prohibition, and state government has done a very good job. But things are changing, and none of it is for the better.
The state liquor commission is generating friction in Concord, and its revenues are down. This state agency has become a bloated hierarchy with many rules and big salaries. The real problem is that its business model just isn’t evolving as it should.
New Hampshire state liquor stores were once not only a market leader in the Northeast, they were the market. Liquor prices were so much cheaper in sales tax-free New Hampshire that vans from Boston, Providence, R.I., and even New York City would come north to load up. Millions of dollars flowed into the New Hampshire state treasury, and very few questions were ever asked. That world doesn’t exist anymore, or if it does, it’s a lot harder to buy large quantities of cross-border booze from New Hampshire. Liquor sales are somewhere near 11 percent of the total state budget, so any decline at the state liquor commission directly affects local communities and the taxpayers of this state.
Change is clearly needed at the state liquor commission. When I was in the Legislature, there was a proposal to sell beer and various grades of cheese in state liquor stores. It was a good proposal. Numerous in-state vendors were willing to floor-plan the inventory at no cost to the state, work off a small percentage on each sale and then New Hampshire gains at least $50 million a year for the state treasury, and an innovative business model advances. But this isn’t the culture that exists in Concord, which is a major reason why the state liquor commission and the rest of the state are now suffering.
North Country senators like David Starr (R-Franconia) and Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) should be working toward needed change at the state liquor commission, but they don’t because change isn’t their priority. Executive Councilor Mike Cryans is attempting to do a lot on the sale of liquor, but his results can only be limited; he isn’t a policymaker.
Steven J. Connolly