October 9, 2011

By Staff

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Initiative 1183 — putting liquor sales in the hands of retailers instead of the state —is worth a yes vote.

Last year, voters were asked a similar question, challenging the state’s monopoly on liquor sales. The voters said no. But I-1183 is vastly different.

For one thing, small stores like mini-marts will not be allowed to sell liquor, squelching the fear that teens will have more access than ever. Only stores larger than 10,000 square feet will qualify, unless a smaller store is the only option in town.

Secondly, under I-1183, state revenues will increase with the state out of the liquor business, primarily due to retail license fees equivalent to 17 percent of all liquor sales. The state Office of Financial Management estimates I-1183 could increase state revenues by about $200 million in the first year, and by another $200 million in the next six years.

There are a couple of other factors we especially like in I-1183.

Liquor licenses can be denied to those outlets that do not demonstrate effective sales prevention to minors. In August, nine Sammamish retailers and restaurants were cited for selling alcohol to minors, following a police sting.

With the state out of the business of selling alcohol, the Washington Liquor Control Board would have more time to concentrate on enforcement and oversight of its license holders.

Don’t expect huge drops in liquor prices because the state’s high tax on liquor will not change. But, yes, prices will be more competitive with the state’s monopoly set aside.

That’s the way a free enterprise system is supposed to work, and it will under I-1183.

I-1183 is much improved over last year’s initiatives 1100 and 1105. There is little reason to vote against this bill. It is about privatizing liquor sales, not making access easier. Beware the anti-1183 campaign that attempts to create fears that are not based on the facts.

Ballots will be in the mail mid-October. Watch for them, and vote yes on I-1183.

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