BOSTON (State House News Service) - The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is on track to receive a funding boost of more than $1.2 million in next year's budget, a infusion of money Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said is "desperately" needed at the "terribly under-resourced" agency.
Goldberg told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Wednesday that the commission ranks 45th in the nation for its number of inspector/investigators, despite its increasing responsibilities.
The 25-person agency has grown from handling 19,000 liquor licenses 10 years ago to 32,000 now, with no increases in staff, she said.
According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the ABCC's budget has dipped from $2.79 million in fiscal 2009 to $2.49 million this fiscal year.
A task force Goldberg convened last year found the ABCC "does not have sufficient staff" to review and investigate complaints in a timely manner, to conduct routine investigations "that are consistent with best practices" or to review and investigate license applications.
The task force's final report, issued in December, recommended hiring 30 additional investigators and 15 additional office staffers, at a projected cost of $3.1 million annually, which it said "should be covered by increasing license fees and excise taxes on the sale of alcohol."
Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2019 budget, which are now being reconciled by a conference committee, call for a more than $1.2 million increase in the ABCC's budget over this year. The House funds it at $3,687,019, while the Senate went $24 higher at $3,687,043.
Goldberg said she hopes Gov. Charlie Baker will sign off on a funding hike. "Fingers crossed, everybody," she said.
The budget proposal Baker filed in January included $3.33 million for the ABCC.
"We desperately need a budget increase for the ABCC to hire additional inspector/investigators and licensing staff to process applications more quickly," Goldberg said. "This budget increase would also cover us making all of our commissioners full-time. Right now one of the three is full time. That would result in faster processing of applications and shorter turnaround time for issuing decisions."
The Legislature and Gov. Baker, which control the agency's spending levels, routinely pass bills enabling cities and towns to issue more alcohol licenses.