AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The director of Maine's Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery says he's confident the state can make a lot more money than it does now from liquor sales.
The state is currently in the final year of a ten-year contract with a private company that manages Maine's wholesale liquor business. That contract included a one-time payment of 124-million dollars, and a small annual share of the profits. In 2011, according to the Bureau, that annual share abouted to a little over $8 million. But Bureau director Gerry Reid says he believes a new contract can bring the state as much as $30 million dollars a year, and result in lower liquor prices for consumers.
Reid says he wants a new contract for the wholesale business to avoid the up-front payment and instead have annual payments to the state. Under his plan, the bureau would have more involvement with the wholesale operations, although there would still be a wholesaler to process orders and payments, and a distributor to actually warehouse and deliver the liquor to retailers.
The state would continue to set retail prices, as it does now, but Reid wants to lower prices to compete with New Hampshire.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature aren't ready to support the plan yet. They say the details so far have been too sketchy, and they question how much direct involvement the bureau should have in the wholesale business.
However, the larger debate in the Legislature will be over the eventual use of the income from that contract. Gov. Paul LePage wants to use the liquor money to pay off the state's debt to hospitals. Democrats have been critical of that plan.
Gerry Reid says he hopes the Legislature will consider the issues separately, and approve the plans for a new contract so he can then advertise for proposals and begin negotiations.Reid says the goal; is to have a new contract signed by the end of this year.