Oregonians have entrusted the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with an important responsibility: to effectively regulate the sale, distribution and responsible use of alcoholic beverages and to protect Oregon's public health, safety and community livability.

That's why our commissioners strongly oppose privatization bills before the Legislature this session.

Oregonians have a good thing going with the OLCC, especially when it comes to distributing a wide variety of products, creating a dependable revenue source for the state and local governments, and reducing alcohol problems in our communities.

Moreover, taxpayers don't spend a single dime on the OLCC. Revenue from distilled spirits sales, taxes on beer and wine and license fees pays for agency programs. The rest is pumped back into the community; more than $104 million went to the state general fund and local treasuries last fiscal year.

The general fund received $56 million; cities, $19.5 million; counties, $9.7 million; mental health, alcoholism and drug services, $6.2 million; city revenue sharing account, $13.7 million; and the Wine Advisory Board, $183,342.

Interestingly, the OLCC has forecast a general fund distribution of $119 million for 2003-'05. That's enough to pay the general funded portion of the legislative branch, governor's office, secretary of state, the State Library, Criminal Justice Commission, Military Department, Housing and Community Services Department, and the Oregon State Fair. With tax savings like this delivered to Oregonians, why would anyone want to cut the OLCC?

Under privatization, if the Legislature intends to keep the existing revenue-sharing system, prices would need to be higher. The average retail price of liquor could jump 15 percent to 20 percent if licensees buy their inventory and set their own retail prices.

If the OLCC is abolished without replacement revenue from taxes, fees or a surcharge, $226 million would disappear from the general fund and local governments during the next biennium.

Researchers tell us that when a state moves toward privatization, alcohol consumption increases and there's often a corresponding jump in public safety and health costs Ñ and that's no bargain for Oregonians.

Karen Gregory is the interim director of the

Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

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