A County Council ad-hoc committee drafted a resolution asking the state legislature to privatize only some liquor sales, which are currently handled by the county.
No privatization is a done deal, however. The state has yet to approve it.
Council President George Leventhal, a committee member, said the complete privatization of liquor sales could cost the county $30 million.
Both state Comptroller Peter Franchot and a group of state legislators in Montgomery County want liquor to be completely privatized, which would mean restaurateurs and liquor store owners would not have to purchase their alcohol products from the county Department of Liquor Control.
If all liquor were sold through private distributors as opposed to the county Department of Liquor Control, then the county would have to find a way to make up the $30 million, according to the county resolution. Leventhal said if liquor privatized then the county would either have to raise taxes or cut services.
County Executive Ike Leggett mentioned at the back-to-school media conference on Aug. 31 that the county will likely have to raise taxes next year anyway.
That tax increase does not include the additional taxes that would result if the county had to find the $30 million it would lose from liquor distribution, said Council member Marc Elrich, also a member of the committee.
The increase “probably wouldn’t go into effect for two years, but it would definitely make things worse,” Elrich said.
Such a change would harm the county’s economy but would not help the state’s economy, Elrich said. He added that the legislators are probably receiving pressure from the liquor distributors, who would make more money if they did not have to distribute alcohol to a warehouse owned by the department in Gaithersburg and could sell directly to the restaurateurs and liquor store owners.
Elrich said the income from the liquor sales by the Department of Liquor Control is used to pay for bonds, which is how the county pays for some construction and renovation projects, such as road repairs and school projects.
The county would receive fewer bonds if bond distributors had reason to believe that the county could not afford them. Fewer bonds would mean that proposed projects would be pitted against one another for approval under the county budget, which is already cramped.
Since school projects make up a significant portion of the county budget, it’s possible that those projects would be affected by the loss of liquor sales due to increased competition when the sales become privatized, Elrich said.