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Posts tagged: liquor

Otter on liquor privatization: ‘Not as long as I’m governor’

It seemed fitting that when Gov. Butch Otter spoke to the annual convention of the Idaho Licensed Beverage Association yesterday, the meeting was in the “Characters” lounge at the Red Lion Downtowner hotel. The first question the group had for the governor: Whether he’d support privatizing liquor sales in Idaho, as Washington did – the first state with state-controlled liquor sales to move to a privatized system. Otter talked about how Idaho liquor stores have profited from cross-border sales since Washington’s move, because of price differences as that state saw liquor prices rise. “Some of these other states … are dealing themselves a bad hand because they try hard to be progressive,” Otter said. “Not as long as I’m governor – that ain’t gonna change.” His comment drew a quick burst of applause and laughter from the group, which represents bar operators.

The association opposes privatization; its official stance, from its website: “ILBA opposes privatization.  We believe that the quota system is a system that works for Idaho and we find it unnecessary to have liquor on shelves in grocery stores where it would be easily accessible to children.”

There was less agreement on some of the other issues on which the group queried the guv. When one member asked why the state didn’t order counties to charge uniform property taxes, Otter responded, “That’s not going to work.” He noted that Idaho counties have widely varying property values, and thus raise different amounts from their property tax levies. “I’m not one that’s going to tell every county, all 44 counties, you oughta charge the same amount,” he said. “That’s up to the county commissioners.”

He also rejected a suggestion that Idaho should follow Oregon and Montana in allowing video poker in its bars; and had no answer on how to help holders of highly valued state liquor licenses retain their value. Otter noted that he proposed reforms to the liquor license system several years ago, but they were rejected. “You didn’t like the answer I had then, so you guys figure it out,” he said. “Somebody’s got to come up with an idea.”

Idaho liquor sales boost from Wash. privatization may be temporary…

So just how much of a boost did Washington's liquor-privatization move give Idaho's state liquor stores along the Idaho-Washington border? A nice bump, but not anything they're counting on lasting. The reason: Though Washington liquor prices went up, waves of discounting - not allowed at state stores - are likely in the future under that state's newly privatized system. You can read S-R reporter Jim Camden's recent full report here.

Poll suggests majority of Idahoans favorable to liquor privatization

Though state lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter haven't been enthusiastic about the idea of privatizing state liquor sales thus far, a new poll commissioned by the Northwest Grocery Association shows a majority of Idahoans favoring the idea. The statewide poll, which queried 500 Idahoans and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, was conducted Jan. 9-11 by Moore Information of Portland, Ore. Here's the question and answers:

“Recently there has been discussion about privatizing the distribution and sale of liquor in Idaho, so that liquor would be distributed by private wholesalers, the state government liquor stores would be closed, and liquor would be sold entirely by private grocery and retail stores. Which one of the following statements comes closest to your view about this?”

  • “I support closing the state liquor stores and allowing liquor to be sold in certain grocery and retail stores” - 57 percent
  • “I feel that Idaho should keep the current state liquor store system in place” - 36 percent
  • None - 3 percent
  • Not sure/don't know/undecided - 4 percent

Pollster Bob Moore, in a memo summarizing the results, wrote, “Based on these data, it appears that Idaho voters are receptive to proposals to privatize liquor sales and distribution, and passage of a liquor privatization law in Idaho is a real possibility.” The grocers had considered sponsoring an initiative to that effect in Idaho this year, but decided instead to wait and pursue possible legislation this year or next year; meanwhile, the Idaho Federation of Reagan Republicans has launched signature-gathering for its own liquor-privatization initiative.

Reagan Republicans say they’ll file their own liquor privatization initiative

The “Idaho Federation of Reagan Republicans,” an expanded version of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans group that's intending to go statewide, announced today that it plans to submit its own proposed initiative to privatize liquor sales in Idaho, separate from an effort that's been in the works by the Northwest Grocery Association, who've been exploring an initiative of their own; they're the group that sponsored the successful measure to privatize liquor sales in the state of Washington.

Jeff Ward, president of the Reagan Republicans, said in a statement that his group's initiative is “a conservative effort to reduce the size and scope of government and to free each Idahoan from being in the liquor business.” He said it would take effect July 1, 2013, if it made the November 2012 ballot and voters approved it. As of 3:30 this afternoon, the Idaho Secretary of State's office hadn't yet received anything from the group; click below to read the group's full statement.

Washington liquor privatization could impact Idaho state liquor sales

With Washington gearing up to privatize its liquor sales by June, Idaho state officials are worried about losing sales at their state-run liquor stores along the Washington-Idaho border; already, they've tabled plans for new state liquor stores in Oldtown and Post Falls. “I think we will continue to remain competitive,” said Idaho State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson, “but we really don't know.” Last year, Idaho's liquor division distributed $50 million in profits to the state's general fund, cities, counties and courts.

For now, Anderson said, Idaho won't add any new stores, and will instead try to “get more out of the stores we have.” At least 13 of Idaho's state liquor stores are within 15 miles of the Idaho-Washington border, according to researchers at the state's Office of Performance Evaluations, which has been raising something of an alarm about the pending change. “They account for 23 percent of the sales in the state,” researcher Jared Tatro told Idaho lawmakers this week, “$34 million in sales, $13 million in profits last year alone.” If sales at those stores drop by just 10 percent next year, Idaho could lose $3.3 million in profits, he warned.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, said, “I've been told that the Post Falls stores sell more than anyplace in the state, and I'm sure it's because of the sales to Washingtonians.” You can read my full story here at

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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