I’ll not drink to that

Posted 24 October 2011 by
I'll not drink to Initiative 1183.

I'll not drink to Initiative 1183.

Initiative Measure 1183 seeks to turn liquor sales in Washington State over to the private market. It is the second time in two years we have voted on this.

The pro-initiative side is corporate-financed. Actually, Costco is financing this initiative fight with over $20 million. Almost $9 million came in the last half of October, telling me that things are not going too well in their quest to sell liquor from their big box stores.

This is Costco’s second try at this. Uncertain wording may doom this initiative to failure, like uncertain wording in the Costco initiative in 2010. (In 2010, there was also a competing initiative trying to privatize liquor sales, but in a different way. Both initiatives then left open questions.)

I am for social freedom as much as possible—while recognizing the need for responsibility in such freedom. I do not have problems buying liquor in Washington State. Having also lived in Missouri and South Dakota, I have experienced varying levels of control and locations to buy liquor. There really is not an advantage to be able to pick up liquor when buying groceries. Purchasing a 1.5-liter jug of scotch and rum is not a weekly experience for most people.

The difference for alcohol sales from other types of sales needs to be taken into account. No one drinking a six-pack of soda pop and driving is likely to hurt me when I am driving, unless that same person is racing to find a toilet somewhere. Approaching the matter of alcohol sales with eyes wide open is appropriate.

Initiative 1183 has several problems from my point of view without giving any advantages.

The initiative gives certain big box retailers like Costco an extra advantage, more than volume purchasing advantages, to undercut smaller stores. The smaller stores would need to go through distributors. The big box retailers could go straight to the manufacturers. It is very self-serving on the part of Costco to finance this initiative campaign so that grocery stores would never be able to compete on price with Costco.

Washington State already has some of the highest liquor taxes in the United States. (The price we pay from taxes is why some people think the current state-run system is inefficient.) The initiative imposes a new 27% tax on top of the current taxes. Do not expect to see any price breaks for liquor sold in grocery stores if this passes.

Compliance with laws involving sales to minors within Washington State is among the highest in the country. From the experience of Montgomery County, Maryland, taking over liquor sales in the county mirrored the success in compliance found in Washington State. Why should Washington State residents give up a system that works?

People from California would like to make liquor sales in Washington State more like liquor sales in California. Since when has doing things the same way as California been shown to be an advantage? Since when has saying you want to do things the way you did them in California ever convinced a Washington State resident to do anything but say, “Don’t Califonicate yourself.”

It goes for alcohol, too.

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