Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Getting The State Out Of The Liquor Business

Governor Christine Gregoire has said she would like to open more state-run liquor stores as a way to stimulate the economy. Really? Am I missing something here?

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not squeamish about alcohol, but Gregoire's proposal makes absolutely no sense. It seems to me that a new bill introduced by Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch), that would allow the privatization of the 161 state-run liquor stores, would create hundreds of private-sector jobs, and help the state reduce its massive deficit — which is now approaching $7 billion.

“Privatizing liquor just makes sense in today’s economic times,” Sheldon said. “People are used to shopping in other states and going into a regular retail store for their alcohol. It doesn’t cause any more consumption or abuse of alcohol.”

Senate Bill 5729 would shift control of liquor stores to private industry, instead of the current system where the state Liquor Control Board manages liquor sales in 161 stores across Washington. With 173 private stores already operating under contracts with the state, privatizing the entire liquor industry would put Washington in line with 32 other states in which the private sector handles liquor sales.

“Right now we bring our liquor in from out of state; we mark it up 45 percent, and add the taxes. That’s a tremendous profit center for the state of Washington. But why shouldn’t it be a job opportunity for the private sector for the private sector as well?” asked Sheldon.

This makes way too much sense for the Washington State Legislature to even consider, so don't look for anything to happen on it.

Think about it... The state gets out from under 161 commercial real estate leases, that must average at least couple thousand a month, and it gets rid of a boatload of state employees as well, reducing the state's payroll by a few million a year. What is Sheldon thinking here?

SB 5729 currently awaits action in the Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee.


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