HARTFORD, CT — Defeated for years in his efforts to modernize Connecticut’s liquor laws, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is trying one last time.
The governor believes retailers should be allowed to sell their liquor, beer and wine below the “minimum bottle price.” He’s argued it would give consumers a much needed break on the cost of a bottle of wine or liquor, but legislators have killed the legislation in committee for the past seven years.
The proposal has been met with resistance from the package store industry, which doesn’t believe if the state got rid of the pricing regulations it will be able to compete with large retailers and grocery stores.
Carroll Hughes, executive director of the Connecticut Package Store Association, has argued that changing the law to eliminate the minimum bottle price would cause at least 600 package stores and 10 manufacturers of specialty spirit products, to lose their businesses.
Almost every lawmaker has a package store in their community, so there’s little if any desire to pass something that would impact the industry.
Malloy is also proposing for the first time a 25 cent deposit on all wine and spirit bottles.
Jay Hibbard, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, said it boils down to “pocket picking” $13 million from Connecticut consumers. He said it’s a huge tax increase for no reason.
He said spirit bottles don’t account for any large amount of the recycling stream.
Malloy, according to the budget adjustments he release Monday, is also proposing to expand the “bottle bill” or the deposit consumers put down on soda and beer to fruit, tea, sports, and energy drinks too.
Connecticut is one of 11 states that are “bottle bill” states where consumers can get back the small deposit they pay on bottles and cans at the time of purchase. It initially started in 1978 as an environmental initiative to get the empty containers off the streets.
Several proposals to modify Connecticut’s bottle bill were made last year, but none of them were adopted.
Environmentalists say the bottle bill is still necessary to improve recycling rates, while others say that single-stream recycling has done more to help keep the cans off the roads and sidewalks than the nickel deposit.
Environmentalists argue that single-stream recycling is not good for certain materials, such as glass.
Last year, Andrew Crowley, senior plant manager for Strategic Materials in South Windsor, said he only buys his glass from redemption centers because it’s cleaner and “100 percent marketable.” He said he would likely be forced out of business if he had to purchase single-stream glass.
Meanwhile, bottle redemption centers in Connecticut have been going out of business because they’re unable to run their operations on the 1.5 cents for beer and 2 cents for soda they receive for accepting the cans and bottles.