ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In an unprecedented and unsubstantiated political maneuver, Senator Ben Kramer (D-19 Montgomery Co.) has filed legislation, Senate Bill 703, that would strip the Comptroller of Maryland of existing authority to regulate the alcohol, motor fuel and tobacco industries. For more than 168 years, since 1851, the office of the Maryland Comptroller has overseen tax collection and managed fiscal affairs for the State of Maryland. Below is a statement from Comptroller Peter Franchot about the introduction of Senate Bill 703:
“Despite his obvious financial conflicts of interest, Senator Kramer has introduced this bill because of my efforts to reform Maryland’s archaic craft beer laws and level the playing field for small businesses throughout the state. Senator Kramer, who personally financially gains from a controlled monopoly on liquor distribution in Montgomery County, apparently has found inspiration in his national elected neighbors in Washington, DC to take hostage public employees to score political points.
“His actions demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the vital role that my office, through our award-winning Field Enforcement Division, plays in the fight to protect consumers at the gas pump, to recoup loss tax revenue from illegal alcohol operations, to prevent unlawful cigarette and tobacco smuggling, and even to protect taxpayers from tax fraud and identity theft. The bill has supposedly been filed at the request of a recent task force, however, these topics weren’t discussed, nor were they even part of the mission of that task force. Additionally, no financial feasibility examination was undertaken to determine the cost of moving the Field Enforcement Division to another authority and the resulting process needed to collect loss tax revenue; nor has consideration been given to how this move would impact these dedicated agents and their enforcement efforts.
“Senator Kramer is a compromised representative as he continues to receive payments eclipsing $20,000 per month from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control for a space it leases in a building owned by Senator Kramer and his family. It’s astounding to me that he would proceed with efforts to reorganize alcohol regulation in the State of Maryland despite his obvious conflicts of interest. His unwillingness to recuse himself from the task force and to compound that by introducing alcohol regulatory legislation should be of great concern to the Maryland General Assembly and the voters of Maryland resulting in the withdrawal of SB703.
“In 2007, I took my Oath of Office for the first time as the 33rd Comptroller of Maryland. Since that time our Field Enforcement Division has been responsible for the seizure of more than:
- 2 million packs of contraband cigarettes
- 1.4 million packages of other tobacco products
- 3,400 gallons of illegal distilled spirits
- 2,000 gallons of illegal wine
- 85,000 containers of contraband beer
“This, in addition to more than $9 million in sales and use tax collected from businesses that was previously uncollected. This is an extraordinary record of success demonstrating best practices by our nationally recognized Field Enforcement team.
“Rest assured that my office will continue to execute our duties in the fairest and most effective, responsive manner possible just as we have always done. This will also not deter my continued advocacy for better beer laws for consumers and small businesses. Finally, I guarantee each of you that this is merely the beginning of a much deeper conversation about the highly irregular, unseemly relationship between the corporate beer lobby and the leadership of the Maryland General Assembly.”