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Most of us voted to privatize liquor sales because of the reflexive assumption that it would bring down prices. And you know what they say about assumptions ...
OLYMPIA – For a political reporter, state initiatives have become gifts that just keep on giving. There have always been plenty of unusual ideas for ballot measures that crop up every spring, sort of like dandelions in the political lawn, and knock-down campaign battles over the few that collect enough signatures to make the ballot.
OLYMPIA – There is so much talk of leveling the playing field in legislative debates that one wonders if an army of bulldozers should be dispatched to sporting facilities around the state. Such leveling is almost always a major part of any call for tax breaks, from server farms to border-community retail establishments. But the playing fields for alcohol sales are apparently the most cattywampus, judging from efforts to “tweak” Initiative 1183.
It was late on a Friday afternoon in the spring of 2012. The auction of state liquor stores was drawing to a close, and Byron Roselli had a group of clients in his Vancouver office, all bidding to become new business owners in the freed-up, privatized Washington booze market. The state was selling off the rights to its liquor stores, pitching it as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, Roselli said. But it became clear that the bidders were going over the top – everyone watching, he said, was shocked as the bids rose and rose, into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Private booze just had its first birthday. How’s this baby doing? As might have been expected: Predictions of falling prices have not come true, on average. Predictions of dire public safety problems have not come true, either. We’re buying more booze, we’re buying it from a much larger variety of sellers, and the state is a little richer with booze taxes than it used to be. Restaurants and bars, meanwhile, have cut back on liquor purchases from distributors, and the big-box stores are killing the little guys.
In the first seven months of Washington’s privatized liquor system, the big winner may be Idaho. Business from Washington already was brisk in Idaho stores before Washington voters’ decision, with the backing of Costco and other retailers, in November 2011 to privatize sales.
OLYMPIA – The fiscal note on the latest initiative requiring a supermajority in the Legislature for tax increases will remain in the state voters’ guide, even though it is different from a nearly identical initiative that passed in 2010, a judge ruled today. That might not have much effect in the upcoming election, but it could be a point of contention in the Legislature next year if Initiative 1185 passes, sponsor Tim Eyman said.
Washington voters probably didn’t intend it, but they gave at least a temporary economic boost to Idaho liquor stores when taking their state out of the booze business last year. In June, the first month that Initiative 1183 closed Washington’s state-owned liquor stores and raised the overall price of distilled spirits in the private outlets that took their place, Idaho state liquor stores just across the border saw more Evergreen State license plates in their parking lots and a jump in business.
Supporters of an initiative that privatized liquor sales in Washington now say state regulators are violating the law by arbitrarily restricting wholesale distribution and pricing of wine and spirits. A lawsuit filed Thursday in Thurston County challenges rules the Washington Liquor Control Board has imposed on sales to restaurants and other volume buyers.
Where’s our cheap booze? Isn’t that what we voted for? Cheap booze? There was more to Initiative 1183, of course, and the whole scenario was complicated by various percentages and markups and considerations and predictions. Certain smart people argued that I-1183 would not necessarily give us cheap booze, but arriving at that view required a little knowledge and research and I frankly just don’t think most of us gave it much of a thinking-over.
SEATTLE — A Washington state lawmaker says he’ll introduce legislation to require stores selling liquor to post the full price, including taxes, on the display shelves.
OLYMPIA – Opponents of Initiative 1183 took their last shot at keeping the state in the liquor business Thursday, telling the Washington Supreme Court the ballot measure had too many subjects and hid new taxes by calling them fees. But attorneys for the state and for supporters of the measure said voters clearly understood the changes they were making to Washington’s long-standing liquor monopoly and the unifying element among the subjects makes the new law constitutional.
OLYMPIA -- Opponents of Initiative 1183 made their last stand at keeping the state in the liquor business today, telling the state Supreme Court the ballot measure had too many subjects and hid new taxes by calling them fees.