Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Report: Privatizing liquor feasible in Idaho

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee has just released a new state-commissioned feasibility study on privatizing liquor sales in Idaho. The study, requested by Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, has been in the works since last March. Among the results: Privatization is feasible, but if Idaho were to completely convert from a state-control state to a private liquor distribution with a liquor tax, it'd generate about the same revenue each year as the current control system. Another option would be to partially privatize, by maintaining the state's warehouse function and converting all stores to private market.

Idaho currently has 66 state-operated stores and 100 contract stores. The state could save about $700,000 a year by converting 13 of the state liquor stores to contract stores, the report found. Last year, the state's liquor division generated more than $47 million in profits for the state, with much of the money going to the state's general fund, cities and counties. A slice also goes to courts, substance abuse treatment, schools and community colleges.

The report acknowledges that making either change would be "a major policy decision," and leaves that to lawmakers. It lays out questions to consider, including whether selling liquor is "a core function of state government;" and whether direct state involvement in liquor sales curtails the "intemperate use of alcohol." Idaho's state Constitution says, "The legislature should further all wise and well directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality." However, the state division controls only sales of hard liquor and some types of wine; beer and wine sales already are privatized.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: