One of two proposals to close state-operated liquor stores and turn sales and distribution of liquor over to the private sector and allow sales in most places that currently sell beer and wine. Sometimes called the “Costco initiative” because the discount giant contributed employee time to gather signatures, it would allow some large retailers to set up their own distribution systems.
OLYMPIA – Voters rejected two ballot measures this year that would have gotten Washington state out of the liquor business, but supporters of changing the state’s current system of selling booze are already looking to make legislative changes. While it’s unlikely full privatization will be seriously considered by lawmakers, a few lawmakers plan to introduce bills on the issue again. And officials with the state Liquor Control Board say they are working with Gov. Chris Gregoire to address frustrations over the current system.
Washington voters removed some taxes and made it tougher for the Legislature to create new ones, but seemed to turn down plans to privatize some state services. Idaho voters passed a string of changes to the state’s bonding rules designed to help hospitals, airports and other public projects. And Spokane voters turned thumbs down to Proposition 1, a plan to raise $5 million per year to help fight high school dropout rates.
Since the end of federal Prohibition, most states have gotten out of the business of selling booze, but Washington has not. We still have special state-run stores for “spirits,” which is alcohol that isn’t beer and wine. In pondering the two Washington state initiatives about hard liquor sales, it’s worth asking why the state wants control in the first place. The traditional response is to minimize the social costs of drinking. Without state controls, proponents say, underage drinking, drunken driving and other negative outcomes will increase. But the data are inconclusive. The Common Wealth Foundation in 2009 compared “control” states such as ours with other states and concluded: “Evidence from 48 states over time shows no link between market controls and these social goals.”
Washington voters have a near record number of initiatives on this fall’s ballot, giving them choices on raising taxes, paying taxes, buying liquor and providing for workers’ industrial insurance. Here’s a look at the state government changes ballot measures.
Getting the state out of the liquor business is such a popular idea that voters have two chances to do it in the Nov. 2 election. Based on their ballot titles, Initiatives 1100 and 1105 may seem close enough that anyone in favor of state-operated liquor stores could reasonably vote no on both.
He’s the incumbent. He’s his party’s whip in the state Senate. He has more campaign money and a diverse list of backers that includes unions and large businesses. But in his run for re-election, Democrat Chris Marr is the underdog. His opponent, Republican Michael Baumgartner, garnered more votes in the August primary, even though the business and military consultant was mostly unknown locally before he announced his candidacy shortly after moving to Spokane in January.
Washington voters may think they’re seeing double this fall when they scan the Nov. 2 ballot. Two separate initiatives ask them to do something the state has studied for years but failed to enact: end state control of liquor sales and distribution. The ballot titles of Initiatives 1100 and 1105 may seem nearly identical, and both measures would close state-run stores where customers now must go to buy liquor. In general, retailers who sell beer and wine could start selling gin, vodka, tequila and bourbon if they obtained a license from the state.
Washington state Sen. Chris Marr, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner discuss their positions on privatization of liquor sales and the state’s ferry system.
Washington voters may be experiencing initiative overload this year with a near-record number of ballot measures. They can stage a “tax revolt” by lifting new taxes imposed by the Legislature in April or reinstate a two-thirds supermajority for any tax increase. They can also impose an income tax on people who make more than $200,000.
Soda pop sellers, liquor distributors and warehouse retailers are pouring millions of dollars into Washington to influence residents’ votes on a slew of statewide ballot measures. Some $30 million so far – the majority from out of state – has flooded the coffers of campaigns for or against an array of initiatives, a process in Washington that lets voters enact laws they feel their legislators won’t.
OLYMPIA – The cavernous stores in Costco’s home state lack something you can find in its warehouses in California, Alaska and many other places: bottles of Maker’s Mark, Absolut vodka and other popular brands of hard liquor. But two ballot measures on the November ballot – one heavily backed by Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale Corp. – would largely sweep away Washington’s post-Prohibition restrictions on liquor.
OLYMPIA – Secretary of State Sam Reed has certified one of two liquor privatization measures to the ballot. Supporters of Initiative 1100 turned in more than 390,000 voter signatures, well above the 241,000 required. A random check of signatures was completed Friday.
OLYMPIA – Washington voters will likely have six initiatives on the November ballot dealing with taxes, booze and workers’ comp. They could repeal some of the recent consumer taxes on soda, bottled water and candy; levy an income tax on people who make more than $200,000 a year; and restore a supermajority requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes.
OLYMPIA – Washington state’s continued control of liquor sales may be in doubt. Sponsors of one ballot measure to turn the sale of all liquor over to private stores, Initiative 1100, say they will turn in nearly 350,000 signatures today, a number that practically guarantees the proposal will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.