Posts tagged: liquor distribution system
OLYMPIA — Washington would ask potential buyers how much the state could get for its wholesale liquor distribution system in a bill approved today by the Senate.
Overcoming objections of people who said it did too little and merely shifted the state's liquor monopoly to private hands, the Senate voted 31-14 to approve a bill to seek requests for proposals from companies interested in taking over the wholesale system. Retail stores would remain in state control.
Hanging over the debate was the filing Friday of an initiative that would privatize liquor distribution and sales throughout the state by Costco, the state's restaurant association and the region's grocery stores.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, argued the bids should not be sought until after the November election if the initiative gathers enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Uncertainty over the outcome of the election would drive down the amounts on the bids, he said.
“If the initiative is certified, this bill is essentially worthless,” Tom said.
But supporters said the Legislature can't put issues on hold just because an initiative was filed. “If the initiative process is a reason for people not to act, we shouldn't be here,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said.
Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, said the state should look at more than just selling its wholesale operation; it should get out of the retail stores, too. “This is a big issue and it should have been handled in a comprehensive way,” he said.
But Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said there are some advantages to considering changes to the different parts of the system individually. “This is the piece that you don't see when you walk in the liquor store. This is just a first step.”
The bill now goes to the House.
OLYMPIA — The Senate returns today from a long weekend to caucuses in the morning and a Ways and Means Committee hearing in the afternoon.
The committee has a recently added bill, one that calls for a study of best way to lease the state's liquor distribution system and pull in some cash to the state coffers.
Readers with good memories might recall that the House budget called for selling or leasing the liquor distribution system and pulling in $300 million for the cash-strapped general fund. But that figure was questioned by many as too high, or at least not bankable for budget purposes.
Still the idea for getting the state out of liquor distribution persists, a corollary of the perennial cry to get the state out of the liquor business, period. This morning Ways and Means added a hearing on a new bill to study various ways to lease out the distribution system and give the Liquor Control Board direction on which — if any — make the best economic sense.
Also on Ways and Means agenda is a vote on a bill to end the low-income property tax deferral program, and to expand family planning services.