Alcohol Sales Spike When Montana Legislature Is in Session
HELENA – If recent history is any indication, when the Legislature is in session Montanans can expect the Queen City to become the capital of consumption.
During a recent news conference Gov. Brian Schweitzer talked about all the tax revenue increases the state of Montana experienced this year: personal income, corporate tax and mineral taxes were all up. And then the talk turned to consumption, not only of tax revenue, but of alcohol as well.
Schweitzer said that during the legislative session–which in 2011 runs Jan. 3 through April 21–liquor consumption increases in Lewis and Clark County, where the state capitol is located, and decreases statewide.
Referring to legislators, Schweitzer said, “These are…the biggest boozers.”
Among those offended by the governor’s comments was state Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, who is squaring off against Schweitzer on a multitude of issues.
“I cannot hardly believe the crack about liquor consumption,” he wrote in a comment about a Dec. 16 MontanaWatchdog.org story. “He has never served in the Legislature so has no idea how hard we work. Rude comment.”
However, Bruce Enott, president of Montana Tavern Association, took the news in stride: “What is there to say? They need to relax too.”
According to officials from the state Depart-ment of Revenue (DOR), in January and February 2009, sales to Helena liquor stores increased by 14.47 percent over the same months in 2008. The rest of the state declined by 1.73 percent for these two months, said Cynthia Piearson, DOR public information officer.
According to Piearson: “comparing the three months of January, February and March 2009 with the same months in 2008, sales to Helena liquor stores continued to accelerate by a total of 24.19 percent for the three months (with a 42.18 percent increase in March in Helena alone).
“However, sales in the rest of the state began to recover a bit, such that the state’s total for the three months increased by 1.90 percent (with an 8.38 percent increase for March by itself),” she wrote in an e-mail. The January-through-March wholesale sales coincide with the primary time period that liquor consumption in Helena is affected by the session.
The governor did not say it was only legisla-tors sucking up all the booze. Schweitzer’s pronouncement could cover a whole litany of imbibers such as legislative staff members who find solace in an occasional drink after a barrage of questions and orders from lawmakers. It could include lobbyists who may use alcohol in their never-ending efforts to cajole and influence. And it most certainly could include journalists who may seek courage in the arms of Jim Beam to face another four-hour hearing on topics such as harnessing the power of navel lint.
But the public apparently notices the alcohol consumption as well. Earlier this year, when the governor asked all Montana residents for tips on how to save money, it was suggested the state install a Breathalyzer in the House and Senate chambers.
From Montana Watchdog