Connecticut: End State's Liquor Price Restrictions

Governor is trying to cut costs for consumers, level playing field with Massachusetts

February 15, 2013
Hartford Courant
Once again, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is attempting to bring in extra state revenue by giving consumers more reason to buy alcoholic beverages in Connecticut, thereby keeping both the sales and excise taxes in-state. His two-year battle with the well-entrenched package store lobby has seen some success, but so far the big prize - lowering prices - has eluded him.

If he wins this time, liquor purchasers and taxpayers will both benefit.

Last year, the state legislature approved Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. Many package store owners grumble that the change meant no extra income, even a loss of revenue, and some are probably right: For many customers, six days' purchases were simply spread over seven days.

But allowing Sunday sales did slow the Sabbath exodus to nearby states, thus keeping more tax money here. And opponents of the law never convincingly explained why liquor retailers should be given a competitive break when other mom-and-pop operations have no such protection.

The major issue, however, remains price, not convenience.

Liquor manufacturers set suggested retail prices; in Connecticut, no store may sell below those prices. The law benefits small package stores by making it no cheaper to buy at big-box outlets.

Mr. Malloy wants to change that. Under his proposal, alcoholic beverage retailers, if they wish, may sell spirits and wine at the wholesale price plus delivery costs. That could cut the per-bottle price by several dollars, making it much more attractive to buy in Connecticut. (Beer is not included in the plan; it should be.)

Connecticut's main foe in liquor sales is Massachusetts, which has no minimum pricing, no sales tax on alcohol, and a lower excise tax. Plus, it's right next door - as untold consumers have found. To keep liquor sales here, our state must be more competitive.