Spin Control

Gregoire: Reform liquor board and lottery

OLYMPIA – Washington should abolish the Liquor Control Board and see if a private company can do a better job of managing the state Lottery, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday.

It should also spread some of the efficiency standards and cost-cutting measures successful in business, known as Lean, across more state agencies, she said in proposing a series of government reforms for the Legislature to consider when it returns next month.

Many Republicans and some Democrats said they wanted to reform government, to raise productivity and cut costs, before considering most of the cuts to programs and staffing Gregoire proposed last month or any tax increases like her proposal for a temporary half-cent increase in the sales tax.

The governor said Washington will likely have to do all three – institute reforms, cut key programs and raise taxes.

"I’d like them to come forward with reform ideas that would close a $2 billion hole," she said.

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The state has already reformed workers compensation and unemployment insurance systems, consolidated some agencies, cut management at others, started user-pay systems at state parks and adult family homes, shut down several institutions and required performance-based audits, she said.

Her package of reforms will include dissolving the Liquor Control Board, which has three paid appointees and support staff, for an estimated savings of $780,000, and replace it with a director that would oversee enforcement and licensing operations. Last month voters approved an initiative to end the state’s control over wholesale and retail liquor sales.

"It makes sense to me," said Chris Marr, a liquor board member and former state senator from Spokane. The board will be busy until June making arrangements for the switch to private sales, but will have a reduced work load after that, he said. Compensation for board members was cut back by 40 percent a few years ago, so the savings might not be significant.

The state could save more money by allowing a private company to manage and promote the state lottery. Gregoire said she doesn’t want to expand gambling by increasing ticket sales, but to see if a private firm can do what the state does for less, leaving more proceeds for the General Fund.

How much could be saved won’t be known until the state sends out a request for bids, and examines the replies. When the state accepted bids for the operation of its liquor distribution system before I-1183 passed, the two bids it received showed no "net benefit".




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Legislative and state government reporter, political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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