I-1105 gets state out of liquor business, keeps Control Board protections
The state needs to get out of the retail liquor business. Charla Neuman, a spokeswoman for Washington Citizens for Liquor Reform, writes how Initiative 1105 is the better option or two measures on the ballot.
Special to The Times
IN the midst of a poor economy and dire state budget with a more than $3 billion deficit on the horizon, government needs to change the way it does business. It can start by getting out of the liquor business.
Initiative 1105 would do that by allowing qualified retailers to sell spirits and generate more than $100 million in additional revenue for the state, cities and counties — without raising taxes.
Elected officials have been holding town halls across the state to discuss ways government can allow the private sector to take over existing government functions that are not essential in an effort to save money. They are even tossing around the idea of privatizing the state-run ferry system — critical transportation infrastructure in this state.
Those efforts are disingenuous if legislators refuse to consider privatizing liquor sales as a part of making government more efficient and less expensive. Selling liquor is not an essential government service and is a logical start to shrinking government duties and expenses.
Thirty-two states in the country allow the private sector to sell spirits. Initiative 1105 creates a safe and responsible way for the state to focus on public-safety matters and enforcement while the private sector conducts sales.
Earlier this year, State Auditor Brian Sonntag released a report identifying opportunities for the state to cut costs and generate more revenue without raising taxes. In that report, he estimated that the state could raise hundreds of millions of dollars more by getting out of the liquor business and letting the private sector sell spirits instead, similar to the way we already allow them to sell beer and wine.
The state Legislature responded to the report by sticking with the status quo instead of reforming liquor sales and cutting costs. Today, we as taxpayers are still spending hundreds of millions of dollars on retail space leases and lucrative state employee pension plans for liquor store sales clerks to work a cash register.
While I-1105 will privatize state liquor sales, it keeps the Liquor Control Board intact and able to focus on preventing underage consumption and overconsumption, as well as making sure there isn't a massive expansion of liquor retail outlets. Any license holders caught selling alcohol to a minor would immediately lose their licenses. Licenses to sell spirits will only go to qualified retailers who meet stringent requirements. I-1105 is a common-sense, fiscally sound, reasonable approach to responsibly get the state out of the liquor business.
Opponents to the liquor-privatization initiatives throw out unsubstantiated data and fear tactics, pretending to be concerned about public safety. What they aren't telling you is this: Public safety will improve under this initiative because the Liquor Control Board will be able to focus on enforcing liquor laws instead of pushing liquor sales. The opposition is also funded mostly by out-of-state big beer businesses like Budweiser in an attempt to protect their shelf space in stores. They don't care about your safety or your tax dollars.
Initiative 1105 offers a better deal for taxpayers by decreasing government waste. Consumers will benefit from convenience, increased variety and lower costs — all while keeping public safety standards intact.
That's why people in organizations like the Kent Chamber of Commerce, Snohomish County Young Democrats, the heads of the Whatcom/Bellingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, as well as former members of the Washington State Liquor Control Board and individual business owners support Initiative 1105.
I-1105 is a win-win for all.Charla Neuman is a public-affairs consultant and the spokeswoman for the Washington Citizens for Liquor Reform. For more information: www.liquorreform.org
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.