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Liquor Commission head concerned over money plan

CONCORD - The State Liquor Commission chairman said on Tuesday that legislation to limit its unilateral ability to transfers money within the department could hurt the money-making agency's success in running itself similar to a private business.

Joseph Mollica told the Senate Finance Committee that with Maine and Massachusetts making moves to attempt to be more competitive with New Hampshire, "Is this really the time to tie the hands of the most effective control state in the nation?

"Our projections," he said, "are that we will get $600 million in sales this year."

House Bill 394, which passed the House last month on a voice vote, would restrict the accounts from which the commission would transfer funds without approval of the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee.

The bill grew out of a recommendations of a special House committee charged last year with examining the commission's operation and structure.

Another suggestion, in a separate bill, would replace the three-member commission with a single commissioner.

Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, who chaired the special committee, said House Bill 394 would still allow the commission to make transfers of up to 5 percent of its total budget from one account to another without approval of the fiscal committee. But the accounts subject to such transfers would be narrowed down and would no longer include personnel funds.

"We kind of think that money budgeted for personnel should be kept that way," McGuire told the Senate panel.

But Mollica said the bill is "a legislative noose that would spell the demise of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission acting like a business moving forward."

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