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Get state out of liquor sales: Yes on I-1100, no on I-1105

Post by Kim Bradford on Oct. 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm with 5 Comments »
October 22, 2010 5:42 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Time may be up on this state’s Prohibition-era liquor monopoly, but not just any privatization scheme will do.

Of the two liquor initiatives on November’s ballot, only one ends all state intervention in the liquor market plus has the added advantage of heading off an unholy fight over new liquor taxes.

Initiative 1100 is that measure. Voters who want to get the state out of the business of booze should approve it while voting no on its competing measure, Initiative 1105.

Backers of I-1105 suggest voters should endorse both measures and let the Legislature hash out the differences.

That’s poor – irresponsible, even – advice. The Legislature should be focused on fixing a $3 billion hole in the budget next year, not on patching together liquor control reform. Chances are, lawmakers would punt reconciliation to the courts. It could be years before the dust settles and voters knew what they had.

I-1105 has the further flaw of repealing existing liquor taxes while banking on the Liquor Control Board and Legislature’s ability to put new taxes in place.

That would be another senseless distraction for legislators who will be dealing with not only a budget crisis, but also the possibility of a reinstituted two-thirds requirement for tax increases.

I-1100 is cleaner. It keeps the existing liquor taxes in place and, as a result, poses less of a threat to the state’s beleaguered general fund.

It also is the truer form of privatization. While I-1105 continues both the requirement that retailers use a middle man to buy liquor and the restriction against bulk discounts on beer and wine, I-1100 removes all market controls.

We understand that some may see that as the initiative’s biggest defect. Members of The News Tribune editorial board share others’ concerns that greater access to hard liquor – a sure effect of either initiative – will harm families and communities.

While the board is divided on whether continued state control is preferable to privatization, it is persuaded that liquor sales are not an essential service of state government. If Washington is to preserve its ability to provide essential educational and social services, it will need to pare state programs – even worthwhile ones.

Should one or both of the liquor initiatives pass, we urge the Legislature to strengthen the ability of cities and counties to control the number and location of liquor stores.

The state Liquor Control Board also should work to add rotgut liquor to the list of fortified beers and wines banned in Alcohol Impact Areas and to streamline the process for establishing new AIAs.

Ending the state’s monopoly on booze might be an easy sell for many voters, but it is not a trouble-free proposition.

Enforcement of the remaining liquor laws is key. State government will always have a legitimate interest in regulating liquor sales and consumption to protect public safety and neighborhood integrity.

Voters who think the state’s involvement should end there should cast their ballots for Initiative 1100.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. tree_guy says:

    Kim, correct analysis. Thanks for the advice.

  2. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Wow, a TNT editorial board opinion that actually makes sense. Combine this with the Patty Murray opinion and they are one for two.

    Oh, well. Let the voters decide and then let King County keep counting votes until they have their way.

  3. hortonpeak says:

    Having tried to read through your opinion twice, I am quite confused. Vote “yes” on this but “no” on that. And then, we must deal with the qualifiers. Perhaps a “no” vote on both would be appropriate. One statement did stand out however. It is time, “the state get out of . . .” Yes, I would support this if it were not for the fact that we, the state, picks up the tab when folks are scooped off the road, railroad tracks, etc. The day the libertarians refuse treatment, but that is too far down the road. The day the libertarians have a great big notice on their persons, and/or vehicles to not call “911” when they are a pile of goo in the road then I will start paying attention. I might add, the same applies to the anti-tax politicians who have had nothing but tax supported jobs in their entire lives. Listen up Dan Roach, Pam Roach, the McDonald’s, etc. Cheers.

  4. arttheshark says:

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that you didn’t recuse yourselves from this issue. You most certainly wouldn’t want to anger the backers, some of who are a significant source of advertising revenue for you. And of course liquor ads present an opportunity for even more, don’t they? Is this another act of desperation to save your dying publication or just a total lack of ethics? Or both?

  5. arttheshark: What would be the reason for recusal in this case when we haven’t recused ourselves from commenting on any of the other initiatives, which could also have consequences for News Tribune advertisers? Advertising revenue is simply not a part of the ed board’s deliberations over election issues. If it was, we may have come out AGAINST 1100 since its major backer is Costco (which doesn’t advertise with us) and FOR 1107 which is supported by grocery stores that do.

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