The recession is clearly not over but for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Liquor Commission sales passed the half billion dollar mark for the first time and profits hit a record $120 million, or about 10 percent, over the prior year. In rough numbers, the commission report last week suggests a net profit margin of around 24 percent. Most business people would be very happy with margins like that in their own businesses.
In July, the first month of the new fiscal year, the commission transferred $10.7 million against a goal of $10.8 million … short by just $100,000 that easily can be made up over the next 11 months.
The issues surrounding the removal of commission chair, Mark Bodi, will get a lot attention in the next couple of months. Meanwhile, the study committee looking for some state assets to "monetize" to raise $60 million in the current fiscal year, will be looking at selling or leasing the state liquor business.
Grocery stores are looking to expand the number of agency stores. There are three agency stores today … two in the north country and one in a rural area on the Massachusetts border … that are privately owned stores that sell hard liquor. The argument is that grocery stores today sell beer and wine successfully from which the state profits and adding liquor would be a convenience for customers because grocery stores are open more hours each day including Sundays. Only a few state stores are open on Sunday.
There is also a legislative study committee looking into whether or not the liquor enforcement powers and personnel should be moved to the Department of Safety. The idea was included in a budget bill but my sense is that the legislature would be happy to leave the enforcement of liquor laws where it is now, at the Liquor Commission.
Joe Mollica, from Sunapee, a member of the commission said in the department’s press release, "As the economy continues to rebound, the Liquor Commission is, and will remain, a significant contributor to the state’s general fund."
A word on Joe Mollica. He became a liquor commissioner late last year. He has watched as Commission Chair Bodi has been on paid leave since February and another commissioner resigned a couple of months ago. For a short time, he was the only member of the three member commission on the job. He has been joined by an interim commissioner, Earl Sweeney, who has moved temporarily to the liquor commission from the Department of Safety.
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Another revenue stream that may have turned the corner is the real estate transfer tax which many look at as an indicator of the economic health of an important segment of the state economy. The tax produced $9.6 million in July against a budget goal of $9.1 or almost 5 percent over budget. July was the fifth straight month in which the real estate tax took in more money than budgeted. The daily revenue tracking sheet I receive as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee suggests the tax will exceed its goal for this month, too.
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As I marched in the Lempster Old Home Day parade, I was reminded of the plaque on the wall of the State House recognizing Governor Frank Rollins for developing the idea of Old Home Week. His portrait along with other Governors is on the second floor of the State House where the Governor’s office is located. The special plaque recognizing him for creating Old Home Week is on the first floor.
The post Civil War period saw many New Hampshire residents head west for cheap land and new opportunities. Many communities saw precipitous declines in population and Governor Rollins saw the problems this caused the state. In the late 1890’s he came up with the idea of having former residents come back for old home day celebrations in their former hometowns and with hopes they would decide to return permanently. An estimated 10,000 visitors returned, as about 100 towns participated in the first year.
Today’s Old Home Day events help keep a century-old tradition of annual celebrations alive. The smaller the town it seems the more enthusiasm and commitment. The parades could not be compared to other celebratory parades in cities like Nashua or Manchester. Our parades are much more home grown. We enjoy seeing a neighbor riding his prized antique tractor, a hay wagon carrying some bales with local folks sitting and waving, and of course, a volunteer group selling hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken dinners.
I cannot get to all the Old Home Days celebrations in the area. But I do enjoy those I get to. They’re just too much fun to miss.
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