LePage has better idea for liquor contract

It is reassuring to know the Maine Legislature can act swiftly in the face of an imminent crisis.

Like when we can't get a drink before 9 on St. Patrick's Day morning.

In order to  preserve the "public peace, health and safety," Rep. Barry Hobbins would move happy hour back to 6 a.m. when St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday, as it does this year.

Without this bill, early morning chaos might break out all over Maine that day.

Republicans last week couldn't help but note that Hobbins' bill was moving more quickly through the Legislature than another alcohol-related bill proposed by Gov. Paul LePage.

That one is of considerably greater significance, since it would partially determine the use of hundreds of millions of dollars of liquor sale profits over the next decade.

With the state's monopoly liquor distribution contract expiring in 2014, LePage would obligate nearly $200 million toward paying off a $186 million debt to Maine's hospitals for past Medicaid services.

Republicans have complained that no hearings have been scheduled on LePage's bill, and last week we found out why: Democrats have a different plan in mind.

Senate Democratic Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, last week introduced a bill that would require a large upfront payment from a vendor, followed by a fixed annual payment and a percentage of the annual profits over the next 10 years.

This plan seems shaped by the current contract holder, Maine Beverage Co., which in 2004 talked the state into one of the most lopsided deals in business history.

Gerry Reid, Maine's director of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, says the state earned $8.6 million under the current plan in 2012 when it could have made $45.9 million.

Reid is an impressive fellow, with years of experience in the beverage industry, who has some aggressive ideas about how Maine can recapture millions of dollars worth of liquor revenue that is currently being lost to New Hampshire.

So, we think he is less likely to be bamboozled in granting the next contract.

A scary provision of Goodall's bill is that it would allow the state government to extend the contract with Maine Beverage if it runs out of time to analyze proposals.

Having a new liquor contract, a better contract, in place by 2014 is an absolute necessity.

We also agree with the governor that owing $186 million to our hospitals is an embarrassment we should no longer endure.

Paying our debt would allow the hospitals to collect nearly $300 million in matching payments from the federal government, which would be a boost to our hospitals and entire economy.

We are also worried that, under Goodall's bill, the liquor contract money would simply disappear into the state's general fund without ever paying off the hospital debt.

With their own idea now in the hopper, Democrats will likely move forward with hearings on both bills.

At this point, we believe the governor has the better idea.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

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

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Hon Gov. 13.02.25 17:50 hst

Hon Gov. 13.02.25 17:50 hst ?
uh huh ?
The business of ME is business
Vacationland . Cheap smokes and Rum-ford • Gambling
hth ? /s Steve
http://www.sunjournal.com/news/maine-business/2013/02/25/two-companies-critique-competing-liquor-bill/1325734 

 's picture

We need...

...more drinking drivers on the road Sunday mornings before 9 am to they can challenge the folks driving to church. Gives them something to be thankful for when they arrive unharmed.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Bob , We have legal drinking

Bob , We have legal drinking at bars 24 x 7 x 365 here in Hawai'i
the alchies show up at church
for the wine :) /s Dr Dosh and ohana
http://www.madd.org
moms against drunk dads :D

DOROTHY PETERS's picture

Liquor contract conclusions are all wrong

Concerning the liquor contract, this governor doesn't know what he is talking about. The original contract was signed after an open bidding process that was totally transparent and highly competitive. The folks who bid were all experts in the liquor sales and distribution business. The value of Maine's liquor business at the time was fairly pegged by all four. The state got the best deal for the terms of sale and business volume it had in 2003. Maine Beverage offered the best deal of the four to our state. We would be making a serious error by returning this business to state control. Paying off the hospitals may be a good thing, but returning us to the idiotic way we distributed liquor in the past is both ignorant and short sighted. Getting the most for Maine's people is an admirable goal. Throwing the baby out with the bath water, as they say, is not bright. Maine Beverage has nearly doubled our liquor distribution value over the past nine years. I suggest that the governor study and understand all the facts before he spouts off. If he has questions, he should call in the folks like me who have witnessed this functioning partnership up close over the years. We would be happy to assist him with the facts and in reaching a proper conclusion based on facts.

All that considered, Mike...

I have to agree with the editorial that Goodall's proposal is not a good one. It should simply be a return to zero and send out an RFP that will give all submitting parties equal evaluation, as was done the last time. Not a plan that will give the clear advantage to the current contractor which would essentially send a message that no one else need apply because Maine Bev will get it anyway. And start the process early enough that there is no question of whether the evaluation will be complete by the time the current contract expires.

That is how a State procurement law should work. It IS how it worked in the state I used to work for. Both the Governor and Seth Goodall are trying to subvert that process by making up their own.

 's picture

Study...understand...facts...

C'mon, man. This is the governor we're talking about!

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