Utah lawmaker wants to privatize sale of liquor

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A state lawmaker is pursuing legislation that would privatize the retail sale of liquor in Utah, saying the current system is “anti-capitalist” and “anti-free market.”Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, is considering the legislation because he thinks the private sector can operate much more efficiently than the government, the Standard-Examiner of Ogden reported.Under current state law, liquor is sold through state-owned stores staffed by state employees.The Legislature recently cut $2.2 million from the budget of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which oversees all of the state’s liquor stores. As a result, as many as 10 liquor stores that together make annual profits of up to $10 million may be closed.But Wilcox said closing profitable liquor stores does not make sense, and he wants the state out of the retail liquor business.”We don’t provide the best service the way it is now,” he said.Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, said she support’s Wilcox’s proposal.”We believe in limited government and in the free market, so why shouldn’t Republican Mormons support legislation to privatize liquor stores,” she said.The fact that the alcohol business has been a good moneymaker for the state is not a good enough reason for the state to continue operating it, Richardson added.But Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said he’s reserving judgment on the proposal.Among other questions, he said he wants to know who decides the profit margins for private liquor stores, who is involved in the pricing and who decides where the private liquor stores would be located.”Also, would it be that much of an improvement (over) what we have now?” said Stevenson, co-chairman of the appropriations committee that handled the DABC’s budget.Wilcox said his proposal would include maintaining the same standards and control the state currently has over the sale of liquor, but with private businesses operating the liquor stores.

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