The Old Man of the Mountain is back, and he is hawking liquor. Halleluja!
Last week the New Hampshire Liquor Commission unveiled a commemorative Old Man liquor bottle, filled with "premium vodka," which is for sale at state liquor outlets for $29.99. The proceeds will help fund the restoration of the flags at the State House's Hall of Flags. Ingenious.
This is a state with a long and proud history of seeking non-tax revenues to fund public projects. The liquor bottle is expected to raise $85,000, not nearly as much as other alternative funding schemes. The New Hampshire Lottery, for instance, brings in $75 million, or more than 3 percent of the state budget. But that is $85,000 that will come from collectors and tourists, not taxpayers.
If the Old Man liquor bottle has not made light bulbs click on in the heads of some other state administrators, it should. The state parks and the Fish and Game Department, for example, are intended to be self-funded.
Fish and Game received a general fund appropriation in the current budget to make ends meet, and a special committee has recommended that it raise money by requiring $10 boating decals for small watercraft such as canoes and kayaks. But it would be better for the state if the department tried first to raise money more like a business than a state department. Perhaps there would be a market for Fish & Game stuffed animals and outdoor-themed products.
The state parks already partner with vendors and outdoor products companies. The Department of Transportation has contracted with the Common Man restaurants to run a new Hooksett rest stop. The state sells special moose license plates to finance conservation. And now the Liquor Commission is selling vodka in collectible bottles to raise money for historic preservation. This is a good trend. We need to see more of it.