OGDEN -- An Ogden lawmaker is planning legislation that would privatize the retail sale of liquor in Utah.
Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said he plans to open a bill file on May 6 that will eventually carry legislation to change how Utah runs its liquor business.
The way the state runs the liquor business is "anti-capitalist and anti-free market," Wilcox said. "We don't provide the best service the way it is now."
Utah currently sells liquor through state-owned stores staffed by state employees.
Wilcox said it makes sense to privatize the retail sale of liquor because the private sector can operate much more efficiently than the government.
During its recent session, the Legislature cut $2.2 million from the budget of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which oversees all of the state's liquor stores.
As a result, as many as 10 liquor stores may be closed. Those stores targeted for closing annually make profits of up to $10 million.
But closing profitable liquor stores does not make sense, Wilcox said.
Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, is in favor of Wilcox's proposal.
"We believe in limited government and in the free market, so why shouldn't Republican Mormons support legislation to privatize liquor stores?" she said.
It's time to tackle the issue, Richardson said, and the fact that the alcohol business has been a good moneymaker for the state is not a good enough reason for the state to continue operating it.
Another lawmaker is reserving judgment.
"I would need to have more information before I can make a decision," said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton. He was the co-chairman on the appropriations committee that handled the budget of the DABC.
Among the questions Stevenson would want answered are, who decides the profit margin for the private liquor stores, who is involved in the pricing, and who decides where the private liquor stores would be located.
"Also, would it be that much of an improvement (over) what we have now?" he said.
Wilcox said his proposal would include maintaining the same standards and control the state currently has over the sale of liquor, but with private businesses operating the liquor stores.