Gregoire Wants to Explore Liquor Privatization; Critic Wonders Why

"Liquor privatization, strong divisions and a whole mess of state politics" could be Washington State's 2010 slogan. But after vociferous campaigning on both (all three?) sides of initiatives 1100 and 1105, the issue may get placed back on the legislative radar in the months to come.

On Sunday evening, ran an article about Gov. Gregoire's openness to the idea of privatized liquor sales. In the article, Gregoire explains that she's unclear what the voters said in November about the two failed initiatives, and is calling for a new poll to find out. I spoke with Sandeep Kaushik, political consultant and spokesperson behind the anti-privatization campaign Protect our Communities, about his reaction to the governor's comments.

"The voters saw both issues clearly," Kaushik said, "They saw that both initiatives were deeply flawed and too risky." The initiatives in question, I-1100 and I-1105 failed by over 172,000 and 755,000 votes, respectively. "The voters didn't see the need for blowing up the system. What we asked the voters to do in November was take a close look and they did. They decided the risks [explosion of outlets, public safety, underage access] weren't worth the benefits of more convenience," Kaushik continued.

Much speculation has taken place over which aspects of the initiatives didn't sit well with voters but Kaushik doesn't see the need for a complete overhaul. "I think what the governor is saying is that there are tweaks to make the existing system better and I agree with that. Personally, I think we could add a reasonable number of new stores, make uniform retail hours across the state and offer Sunday sales to create that convenience."

Kaushik compared the current debate over liquor privatization to social security. "For example," he said, "there are things we could do to strengthen the social security system but that doesn't mean we have to privatize it. There are ways to answer the obvious problems without blowing the doors wide open."

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