NC lawmakers consider privatizing liquor stores

NC lawmakers consider privatizing liquor stores

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by Stuart Watson / NewsChannel 36

Bio | Email | Follow: @stuartwcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on December 20, 2010 at 7:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 29 at 11:55 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- North Carolina's governor and state lawmakers are thinking about selling off the state's government-run liquor stores.
  
That would  help plug a $3.5 billion budget hole.

Now the ABC boards are lobbying lawmakers to leave the system just like it is. 
 
One argument that is being brought up is if the state sells off the liquor stores and let private business run them like South Carolina, local cities and counties will lose money.

They'll never see that money again.

The state government in Raleigh will take it and local treatment centers, libraries and law enforcement will lose up to $60 million a year.

But there's another side to that story.

Most ABC boards and their liquor stores are not like Charlotte's.

Some are tiny. "I know of one where the entire operation is one employee who earns minimum wage," says Jon Williams, Chairman of the North Carolina ABC Commission. 

Some of those tiny systems are not exactly efficient.

Last year five of them actually lost money. 

Operating expenses are growing faster than sales and when that happens distributions to local governments goes down.

Those distributions used to be about $60 million, now it's closer to $50 million.

State wide last year, ABC liquor store operating expenses went up while local revenue went down by more than 10%.

Now the state ABC Commission is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to see if it could actually make more money by turning over liquor stores to private enterprise.

State ABC chairman Jon Williams says there is already precedence for revenue sharing with local governments.

It's in beer and wine sales where locals keep a portion of the taxes generated for local government.

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