Comptroller Peter Franchot Tuesday morning announced that he was joining forces with Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) to try to end the county’s monopoly on alcohol distribution and liquor retail sales.
In November, Franchot had said that he would sponsor a bill in the upcoming session of the General Assembly to allow private industry to compete with the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC). But Tuesday he said he will now support Frick’s bill, which would put a referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot asking voters whether private alcohol wholesalers should be allowed to sell directly to restaurants and alcohol retailers, and whether private retailers should be able to sell liquor under a newly created license.
The announcement came at an event at Jackie’s Restaurant in Silver Spring where Franchot and Frick presented a report by the state Bureau of Revenue Estimates that found that eliminating the county’s alcohol monopoly would create $193.7 million in new economic activity.
“This is empirical proof of the obvious—It’s a broken system we have in Montgomery County,” Franchot said.
Bethesda Beat will provide more details on the report shortly.
Meanwhile, County Executive Ike Leggett on Monday told Bethesda Beat that advocates of ending the county’s alcohol monopoly are overselling the idea’s economic benefits. He said that, in order to maintain the county's current spending, an average county household would need to see tax increases of around $100 a year to make up for the more than $30 million in alcohol revenue the county could lose.
“If the voters say, ‘We understand that for this special need we are willing to pay an extra tax of $100 per average household,’ then that’s a different question,” Leggett said. “What I’m fearful of is people don’t recognize that. And the proponents of this have simply glossed over that and that to me is fundamentally wrong.”