Still no solution for questions about Mississippi’s ABC structure

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:27 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi is in the wine and spirits business. But that role could change or go away completely.

Lawmakers say they need to make some kind of change next session.

“My message to you would be whatever you do, we probably doing nothing is the worst thing that we could do for the liquor warehouse,” said Department of Revenue Commissioner Chris Graham at a recent budget hearing.

Lawmakers seem to agree on that point. But the next steps were a sticking point last legislative session.

“I don’t think that everybody, all the legislators truly understood how big of a crisis we’re in,” explained Sen. Joel Carter.

The House position favored the state getting out of the wine and spirit business altogether. Colony Wine Market owner Scott Jackson says if that happens the state needs to be ready to cut its losses.

“If they’re going to pass that service along to a private industry, they’re going to be privatized... they can’t keep making the money they are making for providing the service or it’s called a tax increase,” said Jackson. “And we are taxed to death already. Mississippians don’t want to pay more for their wine and more for their spirits just because the legislature wants to get out of the business and keep making the money they’ve been making for being in the business. It’s not fair.”

But not losing that money is why the Senate position favored a new facility and potentially hiring a contractor to run the warehouse. Carter says the state should stay in the business.

“During COVID a lot of people sat home and drank alcohol, let’s be honest with you,” added Carter. “So, we looked at numbers of exceeding $110 million in revenue, and you can’t just, you can’t throw that money away.”

Sen. Chris Johnson agrees but thinks there could be a way to change the structure.

“Where the state would own the warehouse, and would still control the inflow and sales of alcohol, except for the warehouse operations and delivery would be private company,” explained Johnson.

Both senators say they expect legislation to be filed again in the 2022 session to address the structure of the ABC.

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