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Eye On Boise

Sen. Martin again opposes two new state liquor stores slated for Boise area

Sen. Fred Martin
Sen. Fred Martin

Just as he did earlier in JFAC, Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, debated in the Senate this afternoon against a state Liquor Division budget that includes two new Treasure Valley stores, one of which likely will be in his district. Martin said he believes Idaho already has enough liquor stores, comparing the number of liquor stores in the Treasure Valley to the number of taco stores or Albertsons grocery stores.

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, spoke in favor of the budget bill, SB 1372, saying of Martin, “Maybe the senator from (District) 15 would like all the Albertson’s and Safeways and every other supermarket in the state to be able to carry liquor sales within our stores, because that’s what many of our neighbors…” At that point, she was gaveled, and the Senate went at ease briefly.

When it reconvened, Souza said, “My point is simply that we have controls in our state by having state liquor stores. The hours of the retail portion of these stores is very limited compared to all-night supermarkets that are open 24/7. So I believe that we’re doing the responsible thing in our state, in order to maximize the profits from our liquor sales that go into our schools and our capital building programs and our general fund, at the same time providing a service and a convenience for the people who live here. It uses absolutely no general funds and helps the state make money, and I support this budget.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said, “Like liquor or not,” state liquor sales provide millions to Idaho’s schools and state government. “The population is growing, (per capita) consumption is down, and our sales are up and we’re making more money for our schools and for our permanent building fund,” he said. “I think this is a good bill. This is moderate growth for our liquor stores.”

The two new stores will be the first added since 2009; the state’s population has grown more than 12 percent since then.

“It is safe to say the (Liquor) Division has not saturated the state with liquor stores,” Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, the budget bill’s Senate sponsor, told the Senate. He called the two new stores “a good business decision” that will “provide a good return to the state.”

The bill passed the Senate on a 25-9 vote, after three senators – Sens. Bair, DenHartog and Harris – first voted yes, but then changed their votes to “no.” The Liquor Division budget bill now heads to the House.

Profits from Idaho state liquor sales came to more than $73 million in 2017, all of which was distributed back to public schools, state government, cities, counties, courts, community colleges and treatment programs.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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