With Revenues Off Target, N.H. Liquor Commission Facing Financial Penalty

May 22, 2018

Credit JOE SHLABOTNIK / FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS

The New Hampshire Legislature is scheduled to vote this week on a bill that cuts the Liquor Commission’s budget for the next fiscal year. The size of that cut, though, is far less than what’s called for under state statute.

Since 2015, there’s been a law in place that automatically reduces the Liquor Commission’s budgeted appropriation if the state-run liquor stores don’t generate a targeted amount of revenue for the general fund.

During a hearing on possible financial penalties last week in Concord, Representative Lynn Ober said the goal of the law, as she understood it, was to force the commission to give accurate revenue forecasts to the legislature.

“If one agency, such as the Liquor Commission, does not meet its revenue, then what happens is, the governor starts asking the other agencies to cut their spending,” said Representative Lynn Ober.

The Liquor Commission is facing a target of $144.3 million in general fund contributions for this fiscal year, but is on track to finish approximately $6 million shy. Under current state law, that could generate a penalty of more than $3 million for the commission’s 2019 budget.

House and Senate lawmakers, however, are backing a sharply reduced penalty for the commission: approximately $60,000. Some lawmakers questioned how cutting the budget, which could result in layoffs at stores or a reduced marketing budget, benefits the state in the long run.

“It is a very small penalty, but it is a step in saying we are very serious about we need accurate revenue estimates,” said Ober.

The Liquor Commission contends the $144.3 million target was “exorbitant,” and that it has kept its expenses under budget for this fiscal year.