Hit & Run

Connecticut's Mom & Pop Booze Stores Want You To Pay More For Liquor

"You're either for inflated, artificially high prices, or you're against them," says defiant Gov. Malloy.

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From a broadly defined libertarian perspective, Connecticut's Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is pretty meh, especially on taxes (he's for increasing basically all of them) and on Second Amendment issues.

But unlike a lot of supposedly small-government types with Rs next to their names, he's also worked to decriminalize pot in The Nutmeg State, and a while ago he signed a bill legalizing the sale of booze on Sundays.

Now, he's ready to liberalize the liquor market even more, by ending the state's 35-year-old practice of enforcing minimum prices for booze.

"When in doubt, stand up for the consumer," Malloy told The Associated Press.

He estimated prices in Connecticut are $4 to $12 more per bottle than other states. "And the idea that Connecticut consumers are paying so much more money for wine and spirts than are paid by the surrounding states is quite indefensible."

More here.

Earlier this week, small-store owners protested the change, saying that they wouldn't be able to compete with bigger stores and chains. And that what's best for them, as opposed to the consumer, should be first in the minds of the law:

Nelson Gonzalez, owner of The Grog Shop of Torrington, said the liquor industry is being treated differently than other industries.

"Connecticut residents go to Lee, Massachusetts to buy clothing,'' Gonzalez wrote to the legislature. "Why isn't the governor demanding that all clothing retailers lower their prices? I never see anyone pushing for lower gas prices, cigarette prices or other consumables that are of higher cost in this state. Or why do we pay a personal property tax on our car, boat or motorcycle when other states don't charge this tax?''

To which Malloy responded,

"Why would government force residents to pay artificially high prices?'' Malloy asked. "It's illogical and backwards. We need to be competitive with surrounding states, who have lower prices – and we need to let the market work instead of allowing backwards laws to remain on the books.''

Malloy added, "You're either for inflated, artificially high prices, or you're against them.'

Which sounds about right. And now, Gov. Malloy, you might want to get cracking on how to lower Connecticut's combined state-and-local tax burden, which at 12.6 percent is second-highest in the country. Like liquor prices, taxes can be inflated and artificially. And you're either for them or against them. Or at least that's what I hear.

Back in 2010, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia had promised to privatize that state's publicly owned and operated liquor stores. He didn't get very far due to an unlikely coalition of religious legislators opposed to drink on moral grounds and glad-handing pols who wanted to keep a source of patronage jobs. Check out our Reason TV doc on the matter.