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Originally published Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Ignore the scare campaign and vote for Initiative 1183

The Seattle Times editorial board endorses Initiative 1183, to end the state monopoly on liquor, and argues that the anti-1183 campaign is mendacious and false.

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THE Seattle Times supports Initiative 1183, to end the state's role as liquor merchant. We believe state liquor stores should be closed and liquor sold competitively, by licensed merchants. The state's job should be to regulate liquor, not sell it.

Most states do it that way. It is a common-sense idea. Yet television here is now infected by dishonest ads made to scare people into keeping the state liquor stores.

One says I-1183 creates a "new 27 percent tax." This is half-true. It levies a fee on sellers, though it is 27 percent for only two years, then falls to 22 percent. The ad does not mention that it replaces the state's markup of 52 percent, and that its purpose is to make state and local government whole.

Another ad shows teenagers waltzing out of a minimart with a bottle. It claims that I-1183 will license more than 900 minimarts. This is nonsense. The initiative excludes small stores except in rural areas where there are no larger ones. Most rural areas are already served by small private stores under contract to the Liquor Board, which would continue under I-1183.

The measure is not about minimarts. There is no minimart money behind it. It is about being able to buy sprits at Trader Joe's, QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Sam's Club, Costco, etc.

The ad campaign implies this would create carnage on the roads. But other states regulate liquor rather than sell it, and they are no more dangerous than Washington. Road safety depends on penalties and enforcement — and both are strengthened under I-1183.

The ads make a point of saying that I-1183 is sponsored by "the big corporations." Yes. The money behind it is from Safeway, Trader Joe's and Costco.

Their motive is clear. They want to get into the market.

What are the other side's motives? The ads about tax increases and teenagers are mostly paid for by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc., an out-of-state association of liquor middlemen. Their interest in the Evergreen State is not in protecting people here. Their interest is in maintaining the profit margins on their lucrative business with the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Ignore the ad campaign. It is a heap of distortions and lies. Vote for Initiative 1183, and get the state out of the business of selling alcoholic drinks.




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