What costs Connecticut more: Liquor sales blue law, or Governor Malloy?

Living as I do, in close proximity to the Connecticut border, I get most of my news from Connecticut. Lately, the topic of the blue law restricting the sale of liquor on Sundays has become a hot topic. And in the interests of full disclosure, I could not possibly care less if people can buy on Sunday or not.

From Malloy you hear the following:

Malloy still wants to allow retail alcohol sales on Sundays, extend hours of operation and allow some convenience stores that sell large quantities of groceries to also sell beer. Malloy has said that his bill would help recapture the approximately $570 million in sales that Connecticut loses each year to cross-border sales.

Likewise, there are some commercials running on local radio stations that indicate that plenty of people will drive up to Massachusetts, or Rhode Island or New York to purchase liquor on Sundays, and do other shopping there since they have gone out of their way to do so anyway.

Sounds great, right?  Connecticut gets to stop bleeding sales and liquor tax revenues, and Connecticut alcohol buyers don’t have to trek out of state to get their booze.

Of course, it couldn’t have anything with Connecticut precipitous alcohol excise tax increase of 20% implemented effective July 1, 2011, which was made retroactive to liquor already on the shelves for maximum return (sound familiar?).  Or the fact that these taxes are passed straight to consumers.  No, not a chance of that!  But I digress.

But let’s cut to the real problem: Malloy doesn’t seem to be able to (or more likely, want to) apply his “they are going to flee across the border to buy things more cheaply” logic to the real 600 pound gorilla in the room: the huge tax on fuel in Connecticut, making the difference in price between Connecticut about 25 cents per gallon for regular at minimum, and about 30 cents per gallon for Diesel depending where you look.  You know that the gas station with a penny per gallon cheaper fuel gets most of the business.  Now multiply that by the difference in fuel tax rates between Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Now seriously, unless you are a real lush, are you going to drive to Mass. to buy your liquor instead of stocking up on Saturday?  Not likely, but you sure as heck more likely to make the trek for a quarter or more a gallon for fuel.  And by my observations of license plates in Southwick, Mass., these same Conn. residents buying fuel in Mass. go right across the street to the Big Y, CVS, Dunkin Donuts, other restaurants and yes, local liquor stores as well.  Like the advertising says: if they are going to be up there anyway, they will do the rest of their shopping there as well.  Makes you wonder what will happen when those MA casinos go online.

How come Malloy doesn’t care about the fuel tax losses to adjacent states?  Could it be that the only Conn. drivers that can take advantage of it live closer to the border, leaving residents of the more southern parts of the state hanging out to dry (or more accurately, bleeding to death by taxes?) and it makes up for the difference?  Surely the losses in fuel taxes and ancillary out of state purchases have to be relatively huge compared to the losses due to out of state liquor sales and far more likely to drive an exodus out of the state.  Do you get the feeling that there is some “behind the scenes” activity in play here?

Maybe Malloy is just showing his compassion by helping Conn. residents get more access to alcohol, after driving them to drink (no pun intended) with what he is doing to the state. Or maybe by pushing fuel prices high enough, he will prevent Conn. residents from being able to flee from his Draconian tax policies…

43 replies
  1. Murphy
    Murphy says:

    It’s all about the licensing , medallions and putting small businesses out of business in favor of the big chain stores that provide the graft. The Sunday sales part it is just for the marketing hype side of it. Or should we say “wink wink nod” – have a wooden nutmeg.

  2. kateinmaine
    kateinmaine says:

    it’s all about revenue enhancement–malloy’s platform, ct drinkers paying higher prices,? results from state gov’t SETTING THE PRICE of alcohol.? they then collect taxes based on those prices.? both on alcohol sales and additional income for workers.? while businesses won’t earn the cost differential.? viciously usurous? at best.?
    other than enjoying a libation when dining out, i can’t recall the last time i purchased alcohol in ct.? always more fiscally prudent to pick something up before crossing the border, either before or after filling up the ride.?
    malloy doesn’t worry about losing the gas tax because all roads will be toll roads soon, making the gas tax a moot point/gravy boat.? unless they misspend or miscalculate that in the ‘budget’, which is almost a guarantee.? mutually assured destruction.? hmmm.
    ?

  3. Sad4CT
    Sad4CT says:

    This is about increasing revenue for the state, but I don’t think it will work.? You can expand the places to buy liquor in CT and that might drive down the cost a little… It will also drive some of the mom&pop liquor stores out of business.? The fact remains that the taxes are too high in CT, and those who are able to will?continue cross the border to buy liquor.

  4. RoBrDona
    RoBrDona says:

    It should add some incremental $$ to the state coffers while bringing CT into the 21st century.? What it won’t do is lower the taxes on both necessary and luxury commodities that are crippling the state. I buy the bulk of the liquor we use when I am in NH (at state-run stores that get ALL the profit), for about 2/3 the price.

  5. Linda Mae
    Linda Mae says:

    We drive by that corner @ once a week en route to Roma’s Rest.? We stop at the places you mention – as well as Ocean. And get gas at the station on the corner.? We meet with a friend who lives in Westfield. It makes sense to save a little en route.? We? also have family in Feeding Hills so plan other purchases when there.? CT cars abound in all places.? I bet it’s the same with all border towns.?

      • kateinmaine
        kateinmaine says:

        only ‘makes sense’ in a ‘me, too’ context.?
        better test?? see if massachusetts’ tax adjustments in liquor and lower gas prices have sufficiently attracted enough ct business to make up for what they lose to nh.? doubtful.
        once behaviors have been modified, it becomes a matter of principle.? this will end up costing more than it gains.? it always does.

      • Dimsdale
        Dimsdale says:

        Given the difference in border length, on the gas issue, I think MA more than makes up for losses to NH.? Add in the total lack of sales tax in NH and that cuts that difference, but like the people in southern CT, people in western and southern MA are unlikely to make many trips there.? The mileages from CT to MA are much shorter for significantly more people.
        ?
        The NH example bolsters my point though: lower taxes will attract business from the higher tax states.
        ?
        That is the only thing that makes sense here.? People will buy liquor, gas, food, clothes etc. from MA because it will cost less with lower or no taxes.? Being able to sell liquor on Sunday won’t make a significant difference if people are in MA filling up.

      • crystal4
        crystal4 says:

        Personally, I am a huge proponent of supporting businesses in my small town..I may pay a little more but in the end, keeping the grand list up will help my real estate taxes. Also, I am supporting my neighbors.
        When there is a disaster, such as Irene, or illness in a family..who comes to help with donations? Not the big out-of town (or out of state) box stores, it’s the local small business people.

      • Lynn
        Lynn says:

        I rarely go to liquor stores but I did yesterday. The owner had his big Screen TV on CTN showing the debate at the hearings concerning The Liquor stores.? This is a “neighborhood store” only 2-3 employees.? I asked him his opinion. He said that their small business lobbyists had given up the issue about Sundays to instead fight a much worse scenario. Malloy and his administration instead, want to allow Big Box stores ( Wal-Mart etc) to set up chains of liquor stores, which presently is not allowed. Presumably because their lobbyists fill campaign coffers with more money.? Obviously this would hurt if not kill the small businesses.? Profits would go to Home Offices of Wal-Mart instead of staying in the local communities.
        ?
        If you care about small businessmen call your General Assembly rep and register your fears about this. If you are a Democrat they MIGHT listen to you. I have tried and they don’t listen to a petite Republican even if she is breathing fire.

      • crystal4
        crystal4 says:

        Sorry, Dimsdale, I was so busy reading the link, I didn’t see the first sentence where you agreed with me about supporting small business.

      • crystal4
        crystal4 says:

        Lynn, your package store owners are misinformed. The Governor said he wanted to keep the current rule of only 1 package store for every 2500 people in town. No one can set up “chains of liquor stores”.

      • Lynn
        Lynn says:

        Crystal, the misinformation you give is staggering. I stated what a liquor store owner told me because he is in steady contact with his small business lobbyists. He was listening to the actual debate and YOU tell me that he is misinformed. Were you listening to the debate? Are you in contact with the lobbyists? You know nothing about this issue but what that disingenuous floater of trial balloons spews out into the atmosphere.

  6. kateinmaine
    kateinmaine says:

    the population densities of the north shore, ma may outweigh those of the length of the ct/ma border in terms of active border crossing, but i wasn’t disagreeing with your premise, dims.? i was pointing out the error of crystal’s simplistic logic whilst bolstering linda mae’s support of your argument.?? not that you needed it, of course.

  7. liz2012
    liz2012 says:

    Most people can plan ahead and purchase their Sunday alcohol on Saturday.? The impulsive drinkers who cannot control themselves will be the likely Sunday consumers and will likely end up in the hospital (at some point) liver diseased and miserable!? Is Malloy factoring in the cost of Medicaid recipients showing up at Emergency Departments for detox?? The state and often the hospitals themselves bear the financial burden of the irresponsible behavior of others.?? For those who drink responsibly, God bless you.
    ?

      • liz2012
        liz2012 says:

        I am not at all suggesting that Sunday alcohol sales (in and of itself) results in alcoholism.? What I am suggesting is that it may exacerbate the problem for existing alcoholics.? Being that I work directly with patients in an Emergency Department, I see the devastation that accompanies alcoholism on a daily basis.?? In has been my observation that Sunday does tend to be a slower day for alcohol-related admissions and I do work every other Sunday.? As I mentioned, the Sunday sales may simply make it easier for problems drinkers to drink even more than they already do.?

    • winnie
      winnie says:

      No worries, Liz…There’s an app for that:? Obamacare.

      And am I confused, or did Crystal first mock alcoholics and then proceed to link alcoholism to Sunday liquor store sales?
      Personally, I love being 10 minutes over the Mass. border and it looks like I’ll be headed? back up there for my weekly fill-up once it hits $4/gallon here.? If I can get an 18-pack of Corona up in Sturbridge on *any*day*of*the*week* while I’m filling up, why shouldn’t I?? I wish I could help the small mom&pop stores, but things are way too lean and I’ve got to worry about heat and food.? Were the economy to improve, I may be able to let my hair down and spend with wild abandon and get a $50 haircut.

      Right now?? Not bloody likely–especially since Malloy thought taxing haircuts was a good idea, too.

  8. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    It is a little scary that I am starting to think like you, Dims. I read through and followed every twist and turn until I just knew what your conclusions was.? Pushing fuel taxes high enough will keep us here in CT. We won’t have any money to spend, but we are here. Hey it’s easier than building a “Berlin Wall”.? Wait til the Unions catch on and demand that we build a wall!!!

    • Lynn
      Lynn says:

      OK , Just to clarify, I adore Wal-MArt and go almost weekly. They offer the lowest prices, which I need right now. However, I feel the local liquor stores have enough problems and this is not the time to increase unfair competition.

  9. JBS
    JBS says:

    Malloy. This politician is going to bleed this state dry. All to feed his rapacious appetite to spend, spend, spend.
    Sunday sales is just a really bad idea on so many labels. If Malloy thinks Sunday sales will recoup the state’s citizens who go to MA for their liquor, he is mistaken. Next month he will be proposing some new tax on CT.
    I can’t wait to vote against him.

  10. sammy22
    sammy22 says:

    This is amusing. I seem to recollect that if one buys, say liquor in NH, and brings to CT, tax is due to CT for that liquor. Everybody here seems to condone “cheating” on the tax.

  11. kateinmaine
    kateinmaine says:

    lynn’s local store owners are correct about the shenanigans.? and there’s another thing that hasn’t been mentioned (unless i missed it)–the end game here is unionization.
    crystal, you need to check with your inside sources–one of danny boy’s bff’s is in the process of buying a small chain store–this bud’s for him.??
    the chain store effect in the alcohol business is to artificially lower prices to squeeze out the small local competition (they can afford to do this because of margins and other product sales offsets).? once that is accomplished, they can set whatever price they want.?

    • kateinmaine
      kateinmaine says:

      glad you picked up on that sammy.?? means crystal might, too.? teachable moment. ? the part that’s wrong is gov’t complicity in the market–i.e. effecting winners and losers.? the market is capable of picking it’s own winners and losers.? see crystal’s fervent support of her neighbors’ businesses.? even businesses that have deep roots can run their course, despite local support–north cove outfitters in old saybrook is a perfect example.? great place, but cycled out.
      it may well be that ct border package stores can find a way to compete without being open on sunday–they’ve survived this long.? some have even thrived.? begs the question–why the sudden urgency on this?? non-responsive urgency is almost always a contrivance. . .

  12. Linda Mae
    Linda Mae says:

    I learned about fine wine from a friend who owned a package store in Enfield @ 25 years ago.? He left the business.? He could go to Town & Country in West Springfield, MA and buy wines cheaper than he could get them wholesale in CT.? Plus – selling chips, cheese, etc. was? forbidden.? Free enterprise?? CT also makes it difficult to send wine home when you visit CA. The first package store before Six Flags has had a sign boasting that there is no longer a tax on alcohol.? Sometimes we stop by because we’re going to a friend’s house and forgot to get a bottle.? Other times it’s because you realize that you are out of white or red when you need it.? It’s a convenience!!!!! That’s the issue.? Plus – why should the state decide what product should be sold and when???? I only object to the policy of making the store legally responsible if some one drinks too much and gets into an accident. The person responsible is the driver.? Store owners are not doctors nor do they have the ability to scientifically test someone buying a bottle of wine.? Let’s get the government out of our personal lives. ??

  13. Murphy
    Murphy says:

    If you vote for Sunday alcohol sales aren’t you voting against WOMEN’S HEALTH? Something must be done to protect these women!
    Repealing a ban on Sunday alcohol sales at stores increases the number of alcohol-related accidents and deaths, according to a task force of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reviewed 14 studies in which laws restricting alcohol sales were changed.

    “Take the state of New Mexico, which in 1995 allowed Sunday sales of alcohol,” said Hahn, an epidemiologist with the CDC. “And they also allowed counties to reverse that policy, so if a county didn’t want Sunday sales, they didn’t have to have them. What they found was that in the counties where they allowed Sunday sales, there were increases in motor vehicle injuries and deaths.”

    According to the study, the risk of death in an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident in New Mexico increased by 26.8 percent on Sundays after the ban on Sunday liquor sales was lifted. And in the three counties that reinstated the ban on Sunday sales, those three counties went on to have the lowest risk of alcohol-related accidents on Sundays.

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