Ryan Hume:This one’s on me: Dismantle the OLCC and buy a kid a drink

So, I am not particularly sure if Oregon is the only state that is having this problem lately, but I believe there should be a limit to the term “special election.”

How many special elections can we conjure up before the public becomes suspicious of what the word “special” implies? After two in a non-election year, should we pass a city or state referendum that clearly explains to the voting public that the next special election will be called a “do-or-die election” or maybe a “do-you-have-an-extra-quarter-because-I-need-to-catch-the-bus election”?

How many more special elections will we have to have before we can no longer afford “special” elections and will simply have to go around door to door with a sledgehammer and a large bag with a dollar symbol on it, just to keep public schools open long enough for teen-age girls to beat the hell out of one another in some sort of bizarre hazing ritual that right now I am trying to historically trace back to an ancient Stone Mason rite of passage that may or may not have anything to do with MSNBC, but is definitely linked to a pagan ritual originating from northern Wales involving the vernal equinox, horse dung and what came to be known as Easter eggs?

Because, let’s face it, kids aren’t learning anything in public schools on the verge of bankruptcy, even if they are open.

In spite of the failings of educational and law-enforcement institutions to maintain a descent pulse while floating in this ocean of debt Oregon has collected on the tailwind of Bush’s 2001 tax cut plan, there is one state-run institution that has not felt any pangs while the rest of this state remains hungry for funding. The infamous Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has stayed afloat in this dire economy simply because it pays for its own operation with the fees it collects.

It costs $16.8 million annually to operate the OLCC. And as Mary Botkin, the senior political coordinator for the Oregon chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), of which, the AFSCME Local 2505 represents most OLCC employees, stated in a guest column in the Vanguard on May 8, OLCC “profits” are spread statewide.

This fiscal year alone, the OLCC has put $104.2 million into Oregon’s depleted piggy bank, and the OLCC would see this as a purely positive thing as they pat themselves on their puritan backs, while I would have to argue otherwise.

Every state has liquor control. Every state makes money off of the importing, distributing, taxing and licensing of liquor within that state. What sets Oregon’s liquor control laws apart from other western states’ is we have an agency that funds its extensive goals, operations, mandatory educational trainings, and policing from the profits of liquor control, before all profit is calculated.

The OLCC operates from the money it collects, and all profit then is what is left over after its annual costs are met.

This differs from our neighboring states, where liquor is controlled simply by bureaucratic state organizations that do all of the business side of the OLCC without its ingrained puritan sense of morality.

So as a conservative estimate, let’s say that the OLCC spends $10 million “operating” on a purely functional level, and say that $6.8 million of that budget is put toward its policing of convenience stores and bars, its mandatory education of servers, etc. Then its annual turnover to the state would have been $111 million this year alone, but more likely it would be more.

In a state where education is put into a statewide piggybank and then redistributed “accordingly” to the cities and counties, why is the independent operation of liquor control, one of the state’s largest cash crops, able to mandate and regulate its own budget?

For all that the OLCC’s good intentions, the only difference I have seen between alcohol consumption in Oregon and that in other western states is that in Oregon, bartenders go to jail if two patrons get into a fight, convenience store clerks can get $300 fines for selling beer to someone with a fake ID, and the wait staff at restaurants are legally responsible for the actions of their patrons.

In a time of severe budget crisis, I wouldn’t allocate the privatization of the OLCC, so that corporations can get their hand into the piggy bank, I would allocate its long-overdue demise.