November 7, 2011

Initiative 1183 - Will You Vote Yes or No?

In Washington, one of the initiatives we are voting on next week is Initiative 1183, which would privatize the distribution and sale of liquor in our state.  This would mean that we would not be limited to state run liquor stores, it would be available in grocery stores and some convenience stores.  Beer and wine are already available at these types of stores, so this applies only to hard liquor.  Out of the 50 states, there are 18 or 19 that are still regulated.

I am planning to vote yes on this.  I don't see any reason for it to continue to be regulated, and de-regulating it will mean stores paying tax on the liquor they're selling, which will provide money to the state to spend on things like transportation and education.

Argument One:  CostCo is bad?

One is that CostCo has spent a bunch of money promoting the Yes on 1183 campaign, and probably stands to make a buttload of money if it passes.  I don't understand why people are so upset about this.  They're a big company, why WOULDN'T they campaign for something that would boost their business?  It's not some evil plot, and they are not "buying the vote."  Everyone still gets to vote on this.  Plus, they will be paying the higher taxes on whatever liquor they do sell.  I just don't get what the big deal is.

Also, according to The Seattle Times:
The bill to do this is already law: Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5942, quietly signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire months ago. Under this law, the state would turn over all liquor wholesaling in Washington to one private monopolist. This company would be the exclusive supplier to the state liquor stores, probably for 10 years.
So, I don't get it.  It's okay for this monopolist to make all this money if 1183 is voted down, but it's NOT okay for CostCo to make money off it in the free market?  That just doesn't make sense.

Argument 2: Drunk Drivers Will Multiply Like Rabbits?

I also got a No on 1183 flier in the mail with this story about a mom whose child had been killed by a drunk driver, complete with a school photo of the little boy.  One of the things it says is "1183 could allow hard liquor sales in nearly 1,000 mini marts across Washington - which is where the dunk driver bought that last fatal drink that changed my life and robbed me of my child."

Am I missing something here?  Because it seems like this person's son was killed by someone with alcohol that is ALREADY available in convenience stores... 1183 is not going to take beer and wine OUT of the stores if it's voted down.  I'm not sure how this is supposed to affect my decision to vote on this...  In most of the 50 states, between 30 and 45 percent of vehicle accident fatalities are caused by drunk driving.  It doesn't seem to vary much based on how regulated the liquor is.  If people want to drink and drive, they are going to find a way to do it.  I feel like implying that this is going to hugely change it is manipulative.

Additionally, unless they were already a state contracted liquor store, businesses will have to be 10,000 square feet in order to sell liquor.  That means that not every mini-mart and gas station will have it, they have to be a certain size.  But no one is talking about that limitation.

As for teens, they're going to get booze no matter where it's available - where there's a will, there's a way.

Argument 3: What About the Jobs?

My only hesitation is that state owned liquor stores will be shut down, meaning some people will lose their jobs.  Privately owned stores who currently have a contract with the state will be allowed to stay open and compete in the free market.  It is hard when a choice has to be made that will mean such huge changes for people.  I do know that these are people with families and that they need jobs.  Sometimes, though, I think that there has to be change.  Additionally, it IS possible that jobs will also be created:
The "Yes" campaign says the initiative might create other public-sector jobs, because of the additional money going to the state and local governments, including $10 million a year guaranteed for public-safety programs.

And restaurants could save and add jobs, said Bruce Beckett, head of government affairs for the Washington Restaurant Association. "Anything that can improve efficiencies, cost structures and options for people not having to pick up liquor at the state liquor stores could have a positive impact on jobs," he said. …
Right now, the law enforcement officers who are responsible for enforcing liquor laws are under funded and unable to enforce the laws fully.  Additional revenues from this initiative would actually strengthen the law enforcement and create higher penalties for selling liquor to minors.  In the end, I still think that voting yes is the right choice for our state.


Liz Sawyer said...

I think the campaigning on this issue would be a very interesting case study for communications/media class. I am voting yes as well! 

Jennifer Short said...

Here in Colorado the liquor stores are not state run, and Costco is the best place to buy alcohol!  They don't have a lot of variety, but if they have something you want, it's guaranteed to be a great price.  If I still lived in Washington, I'd vote yes as well.  Although the state stores might close, there should be enough private stores opening that new jobs should be created to compensate for the lost jobs.  And as a consumer, it's so nice to have the variety of stores and locations for buying alcohol.