BOISE – Idaho’s state Liquor Division is on track for another record year in 2015, the division reported to legislative budget writers Friday, in part because of cross-border buyers from Washington, who now account for a steady 7 percent of the division’s sales.
Before Washington voters decided to privatize their state liquor sales system in 2011 – and add taxes that upped prices – Washington buyers accounted for about 3 to 4 percent of Idaho’s sales. In 2012, division Director Jeff Anderson said, “We began to get traffic. That’s when we opened a new store in Stateline, Idaho, to relieve the pressure on the Post Falls store that was being overwhelmed, frankly.”
Officials weren’t sure if the sales boost would be permanent, but it’s “stayed about steady,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of found a point of equilibrium.”
Distributions to the state of proceeds from the division hit $63 million in the fiscal year that ended in July.
“That’s an increase of 4.8 percent, on a sales increase of 3.4 percent,” Anderson told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “Over the next decade, we forecast $725 million in distributions to our stakeholders, the people of Idaho.” Plus, he said, “Per-capita consumption of distilled spirits in Idaho is well below national averages, and even less when we factor out cross-border sales to Washington state consumers.”
Idaho has just 15 outlets for hard liquor per 100,000 residents age 21 and older, Anderson said. In states with privatized liquor sales, the average is 50 outlets per 100,000 residents. Also, state liquor stores are open limited hours. “Access matters quite a lot in curtailing overconsumption and abuse of this legal product,” he said.
Proceeds from the Idaho Liquor Division benefit the state’s general fund; counties and cities; court services; schools; and substance abuse treatment programs.
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