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Leggett: Revenue Prohibits Ending MoCo Liquor Monopoly

Montgomery County Executive told the audience at Monday’s Budget Forum in Germantown that he would support ending the County’s monopoly on liquor, if there was some way to replace the revenue which the Department of Liquor Control brings in to the County.

The dissolution of the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control has been a hotly debated topic in the County for four months after it was proposed by some lawmakers that the County get out of the liquor business.

People have said that we need to get Montgomery County out of the liquor business,” said Leggett Monday night. “I agree with that, I don’t think it is necessarily appropriate for the County to have a monopoly, but I don’t want to lose the $33- to $34-million dollars per year. If someone could find a way for the County to make up that $34 million ever year, I am open to a consideration of the County getting out of the liquor business.”

Leggett said that the County nets $33- to $34-million from the liquor operation. “That money goes to help our schools, our roads and any number of variety of things in the County. If you lost $34 million there are only two ways to make up that loss of funds. One is to cut or eliminate services and programs in Montgomery County and that is always on the table.”

“The other way of course is by increasing revenue in some fashion,” said Leggett. “To make up $33 million it will cost a typical house in Montgomery County about $100 to make up that loss of revenue.”

He pointed out that any increase in sales tax increase due to additional sales throughout the County at non-county liquor stores would go to the State of Maryland, and not Montgomery County.

He also said that while it is true that neighboring communities such as Prince Georges County and the District of Columbia earn more money from liquor sales, those areas have large venues such as FedEx Field, Maryland University’s football and basketball venues, and the Verizon Center and Nationals Park which sell a high volume of alcohol. Montgomery County does not have such a venue.

State lawmakers are considering several bills to privatize alcohol sales in the County. A bill proposed by Del. Bill Frick, D-Montgomery, would give county voters the chance to decide whether the county should maintain its monopoly. The issue would be on the November 2016 ballot.

Supporters of the measure say it would address concerns that have been raised about delayed alcohol deliveries and restrictions on what can be purchased.

Photo by Germantown Pulse.