OUR VIEW: Cut the cost of booze? Let's not do that

Ryan McVay

Many Mainers may appreciate Gov. Paul LePage's business-like approach to government.

But we should speak loudly and clearly that cutting the cost of hard liquor in order to boost state revenue would be foolish and counterproductive.

Gary Reid, director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, told a state legislative committee Wednesday that reducing the price of alcoholic beverages would benefit consumers and those who sell alcohol at the retail level.

That's the kind of consumer activism Maine can ill afford.

Reid told the Legislature's Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, which oversees alcoholic beverage sales, that he hopes to obtain $40 million a year for Maine by ending a contract the state awarded in 2003 to a Massachusetts company to import and distribute hard liquor here.

Rumors have swirled for weeks that the LePage administration has a secret plan to pay off the state's debt to Maine hospitals, which totals between $150 and $190 million.

That at least would benefit the state's hospitals and get taxpayers out from under a large and embarrassing obligation incurred by previous governors and Legislatures.

And that might very well be a worthy use for additional liquor revenue. But making it cheaper and easier to obtain another bottle of coffee brandy or vodka is not.

Attention has focused in recent months on Maine's highest-in-the-nation treatment rate for prescription pain killers. More Mainers now die from prescription drug overdoses than in car accidents.

But that extremely worrisome problem should not obscure the fact that alcohol abuse remains the state's most serious drug problem.

Alcohol costs Maine businesses millions of dollars a year not only in health care costs but in lost time and worker productivity.

Alcohol plays a role in a very high proportion of domestic violence, violent crime and motor vehicle arrests.

The abusive use of alcohol has destroyed families and lives in all corners of the state, and boosts Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Plus, binge drinking and alcohol poisoning are problems on practically all college campuses.

Most studies have found, meanwhile, that alcohol consumption does increase and decrease depending upon cost.

But unlike other highly destructive drugs, alcohol is by longstanding custom legal in the United States.

From a business standpoint, Reid recognizes that many Mainers buy cheaper booze in New Hampshire, which has set up several large discount stores to attract interstate traffic coming to and leaving Maine.

This is the sort of cynical revenue-raising tactic that New Hampshire legislators are famous for.

But most Mainers are not running to New Hampshire for their next bottle of Allen's Coffee Brandy. They go to their local grocery store, drug store or convenience store.

Reid says Maine's prices are $2 to $7 higher than New Hampshire's. That means the retail price would drop significantly all over Maine, again encouraging more consumption.

If there is an unrealized pot of gold connected to Maine's liquor business, reimbursing Maine's hospitals as quickly as possible would be a far better use of the money.

Some of that unpaid-for-care was no doubt delivered to people suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

MARK GRAVE's picture

Likewise, those how would buy

Likewise, those how would buy an extra bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy are not the one’s abusing alcohol.

If alcohol is so destructive to Maine, then become a dry state – oh, we tried that with prohibition and we know how that works.

The argument that cheaper alcohol (probably not that much cheaper than it is now) will increase usage is the same argument used against legalizing drugs (which will effectively make them cheaper) has been proven false.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Cut the cost of booze? Let's not do that

ed. 12.09.07 14:00 hst ?
. . B u r p s. . xcuse me •
You are never as think as you drunk you are :)
Lower the drinking age though ? 
Old enough to die ? Old enough to drink . ...
Alo'ha from Pahoa HI 96778

Lindsey Montana's picture

Once again, Sun Journal takes

Once again, Sun Journal takes the dismal view that you just can't trust your fellow man.

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .to drive you home , drunk

. .to drive you home , drunk , Lindsey :D

MARK GRAVE's picture

Perhaps you have had too much

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

MARK GRAVE's picture

I apologize for getting out

I apologize for getting out of line.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot sez he'd really

The parrot sez he'd really like to know what you said. "If it wouldn't make a parrot blush, it probably could've passed muster.", said he.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Is the parrot trying to trick

Is the parrot trying to trick me into repeating what I said to get me into more trouble? I cannot tell you what I said without repeating the comment.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Understood. The parrot might,

Understood. The parrot might, but no self respecting pirate would do that. We empathize with you.

Debra Shannon's picture

Pay back the hospitals?

Didn't we overpay CMMC a while ago? Was that ever returned or should we just keep giving them more so they can buy more property while remaining a "non-profit"?

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .after they s c r a p e the

. .after they s c r a p e the drunks off the road , Debra ?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Hey, let's all go back to

Hey, let's all go back to prohibition. And while we're at it, let's all hope gasoline gets up to $5.50 a gallon, so maybe people will use less.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Hey, let's shoot for $10.00 a

Hey, let's shoot for $10.00 a gallon while we are at it.

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .Prohibition has never

. .Prohibition has never worked n e wherer at n e time , Paul , the cynic :)
Live free. Die
Osama is dead. GM ® lives . .
four more beers :D

MARK GRAVE's picture

"Right now, the government’s

"Right now, the government’s GM stock is worth about 39% less than it was on November 17, 2010, when the company went public at $33.00/share."

"President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again."

Read the full story that we hear very little about.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiswoodhill/2012/08/15/general-motors-is-h...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It appears to be bogged down

It appears to be bogged down at the $39 mark. The depressing part, according to a recent financial report I heard on the radio, the stock would have to reach $53 for the holders to even break even. Way to go, Barry; way to go, GM.

MARK GRAVE's picture

The takeaway is that anyone

The takeaway is that anyone claiming the Government made money on the GM bailout is lying. Now that is not to say GM stock will not turnaround but a measure taday is a net loss for the taxpayer.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Except for the 'Vette, the

Except for the 'Vette, the Cadillac CTV, and a bunch of trucks that Ford will eat for lunch, in spite of all the bailout money, the best GM has to offer is the $44,000 Volt (Dolt depending on your viewpoint) that no one really seems to be interested in.
Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Humvee; may they all rest in peace.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Apparently, my sarcasm flew

Apparently, my sarcasm flew over your head like a flock of Hawaiian geese. Too much papaya juice in the Kool-Aid, Steve?
0O:-)

MARK GRAVE's picture

Hey, here is a joke for you.

Hey, here is a joke for you.

Q: What is the difference between a Romney supporter and an Obama supporter?

A: Romney supporters sign their checks on the front; Obama supporters sign their checks on the back.

Let’s see how many readers get this one.

MARK GRAVE's picture

It is the sulfuric acid in

It is the sulfuric acid in air from all those volcanoes that rot the brain.

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