Bob Hesla owns Belmont Liquor, a small store in Southeast Portland. But even as an entrepreneur and small-business owner, he is legally required to be a state agent and, as such, is employed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). But Hesla is also president of Oregon Retail Liquor Association (ORLA), a grassroots organization whose primary purpose is to fight against his employer. The OLCC's most recent assault, Hesla claims, is a sneaky attack on the pocketbooks of the liquor agents and storeowners like himself.

In December, Governor Kitzhaber issued his proposed budget for the next three years. In it, he asked state agencies to tighten their belts, including the OLCC. Hesla and the other agents are not so much concerned with the fact that the OLCC budget was cut--indeed, most state agencies are suffering budget cuts-but after an initial look at the proposed budget, ORLA fears that the OLCC will conveniently take all of the necessary cuts from the profit of the store owners rather than the agency itself.

Over and over, say liquor store owners, the OLCC has not given them the basic latitude and freedoms with business decisions that other entrepreneurs enjoy. In this case, like a McDonald's franchise making their employees pay for uniforms, ORLA complains the OLCC is making them pay for expenses that should be covered by the OLCClike the brown paper bags for carryouts.

In a memo to agents, Pam Erickson, director of the OLCC, writes, "The Governor's budget does call for agents to begin paying for some of the costs of doing business." The new budget proposed by OLCC calls for agents to start paying for bank cards surcharges, services to damaged goods and bags. At the same time, though, ORLA doesn't see their bosses--the OLCC--making the same financial sacrifices.

A series of hearings are scheduled to come before the state's Ways and Means committee to determine the final budget.