Legislative budget writers set a budget for the state Liquor Division this morning that’s virtually identical to Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation; it reflects a 1.2 percent increase in funding, but the division gets no state general tax funds. Proposals from the division approved in the budget include relocating and expanding five existing state liquor stores, in Idaho Falls, Chubbuck, Kuna, Burley and Weiser; expanding hours to include Sunday hours or evenings until 9:30 at six stores, including four in Boise and two in North Idaho, at Stateline and Kellogg; covering costs for battery backups for the point-of-sale systems and computers in all state stores, allowing tills to continue to function in case of power outages; and $15,000 to cover the cost of developing a new website.
Rep George Eskridge, R-Dover, who in the past has objected to expanding evening hours at state liquor stores, said, “The information I’m getting is that has been a positive impact.” Eskridge also noted the bump in sales North Idaho stores have received as neighboring Washington privatized its state liquor sales and prices there shot up. “That’s substantially increased our sales on our side of the border. So I want to express my appreciation to Washington state,” Eskridge said.
Rep. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, told the joint committee, “I like to drink and I enjoy a drink once or twice. As far as the budget, I just want to say that the department’s mission is to control this and also to … promote temperance. … Does this really fit with their mission, of relocating and growing the size of the stores, does it with increasing their hours of operation, with the website costing $15,000 for party planning and recipes? … I am certainly not against drinking, I enjoy a drink or two. But I just don’t think that goes with their mission, and I don’t think government should be involved in this type of business, so I’m going to vote against this.”
The budget then was approved on a 17-2 vote in JFAC, with just Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, joining Nuxoll in opposing it.