We don’t have an Independent Fiscal Office score of the alcohol reform bill yet, leaving a vacuum that both sides are trying to fill with politicized predictions about the impact on the budget. The pro-cartel side thinks it’ll leave anywhere from a $100M hole (at their most honest) to a $500M hole (at their most dishonest).
The pro-consumer side thinks it’ll raise revenue on net, which I think is quite possible from all the additional license sales, income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes from expanding this market. But the fact is that we still don’t know and everybody’s basically just making stuff up at this point, based on how they feel about the general merits of the idea.
I think it’s not a good idea for the pro-consumer side to lead with more revenue as a selling point, because it may turn out that IFO says this loses a bit of money in the short run. And if that happens, we need to be prepared to argue that alcohol reform is worth doing anyway, regardless of its impact on the budget. This is worth doing because it’s a better deal for consumers and for the economy, not only because we think it’ll raise more money for public services.
And we’re going to be more persuasive if we have a specific pay-for to point at. I think if this turns out to lose a bit of money in the short run, we should take some money from RACP to keep things revenue neutral. RACP is basically a big lawmaker slush fund for “economic development” projects in their districts. I think there’s a solid argument to make that a more competitive and open alcohol market is going to pack a much greater economic development punch than many of the boondoggles and white elephants favored by most lawmakers, and so that’s where we should go looking if IFO says we come up short.