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2010: I-1100 (Liquor Reform)

Results: Despite polls showing early support,  Initiative 1100, the Costco backed liquor privatization measure failed at the ballot box.  I-1100 lost by a 46.55 to 53.45% margin.  The similar liquor privatization measure I-1105 also failed with much bigger margin–34.97 % to 65.03 %.

>> Go To Fact Checking Claims On I-1000

This initiative privatizes the sale of liquor in Washington State. From the Washington State Voters Guide:

This measure would close state liquor stores; authorize sale, distribution, and importation of spirits by private parties; and repeal certain requirements that govern the business operations of beer and wine distributors and producers.

In short, if passed, I-1100

  • Would allow private businesses to buy licenses ($1,000) to sell liquor.
  • Would eliminate the state’s markup on liquor ($15–$17 million, which accounts for half the cost of liquor) while retaining existing state taxes.
  • Would let retailers buy directly from liquor manufacturers instead of having to make purchases through a distributor.

Current Law

Currently, the state controls the sale and distribution of spirits in Washington. The term “spirits” refers to the alcoholic beverages commonly called “hard liquor” (whiskies, vodka, gin, etc.), any beverage containing distilled alcohol (except flavored malt beverages), and wines exceeding twenty-four percent alcohol by volume. Spirits are sold at retail by state liquor stores and contract liquor stores (which are businesses selling liquor on behalf of the state through a contract with the state). Spirits are distributed within Washington by the state Liquor Control Board. The Board purchases spirits from manufacturers, distillers, and suppliers, furnishes spirits to state liquor stores, and sells spirits directly to authorized purchasers, such as restaurants. Spirits manufacturers, distillers, and suppliers may sell spirits within the state only to the Board.
- Washington State Secretary of State, Online Voter Guide

Fiscal Impact

Using a range of assumptions, the state estimates that state revenues would decrease up to $17 million a year (over five fiscal years) and that local revenues would decrease up to $39 million a year (over five fiscal years). A one-time net state revenue gain of $27.8 million is estimated from sale of the state liquor distribution center. One-time state costs are estimated at $38.6 million. Ongoing state costs for tax collection are estimated at $426,000.
Washington State Secretary of State, Online Voter Guide

Initiative Supporters

The basic argument in support of  the initiative is twofold:  make liquor prices competitive for customers while improving liquor control enforcement. Washington has the highest liquor taxes in the nation and also imposes a profit margin of 51.9 percent on each liter of alcohol it sells. This initiative directs the Liquor Board to concentrate on enforcement of liquor laws, such as prohibiting underage drinking, rather than devote time and financial resources to marketing distilled spirits.

Prominent supporters of Initiative 1100 include:

  • Costco
  • Family Wineries of Washington
  • The Northwest Grocer’s Association
  • Safeway
  • The Washington Restaurant Association

Web presence

Initiative Opponents

Opponents argue that privatizing liquor sales will make it too easy for minors to buy liquor, and, that should the initiative pass, the number of liquor outlets in the state would increase from 315 to 3,300. Craft beer manufacturers and wineries believe that the bill will give discount and big box retailers an unfair advantages in purchasing wholesale liquor. Unionized workers in state liquor stores worry about their jobs (~1,000). Opponents also argue that the state will lose money with this change (the loss in retail markup).

Prominent opponents to Initiative 1100 include:

  • The Beer Institute
  • The National Beer Wholesalers Association
  • Washington Association of Churches
  • Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association
  • Washington State Council of Firefighters

Opponents have  raised more $8.2 million to fight 1100 and 1105, with most of the funding coming from the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute (the chairman of the Beer Institute board is also the president of Anheuser-Busch).

Web presence

Polling Data:

According to the most recent Elway Poll (September, 2010)  support for I-1100 looks like this:

  • 28 % definitely support the initiative
  • 17 % probably support the initiative
  • 21% are undecided
  • 17 % are definitely against the initiative
  • 17% are probably against the initiative

1 comment

  1. Matt F. says:

    This article appears to mix information from i-1105 in with i-1100.

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