One of the few things that’s crystal clear about the two competing

One of the few things that’s crystal clear about the two competing liquor privatization initiatives is that if either gets approved by voters this November, an estimated 930 state Liquor Control Board employees will lose their jobs. As reported last month in a cover story by Rick Anderson, the deepest cuts would occur in distribution and sales. But what about the state employees who actually enforce liquor law?Board spokesperson Brian Smith says that like many a government office, Liquor Control’s enforcement division is understaffed. There are 16,000 liquor license holders in the state of Washington, with just 50 field agents to police them. Both I-1100 and I-1105 would eliminate the 28 percent retail markup that annually generates an estimated $250 million in liquor sales and covers the Board’s operating expenses, which includes those agent’s salaries. According to Smith, there’s currently no dedicated funding mechanism to take it’s place.But supporters of both I-1105 and I-1100 claim that under their respective initiatives, the Board’s current staffing levels can be maintained. Sorting out how, well, that’s the difficult part. Charla Neuman, spokesperson for I-1105 backers Washington Citizens for Liquor Reform says that Liquor Control’s budget shortfall can be made up by licensing fees paid by new liquor retailers, a simplified liquor tax and decreased overhead from the closing of the state controlled liquor stores. “It’s a bogus argument to say that Liquor Control is going to have problems with staffing and enforcement,” says Neuman. “They’re going to be operating on a much smaller scale.” But there’s nothing that requires the state legislature to impose a new tax, nor any guarantee that it would actually be approved. Ashley Bach, a spokesman for Yes to 1100, the initiative favored by wholesale giant Costco, says that the Board already makes enough by way of the state tax on wine sales to cover the $11 million it annually spends on enforcement. “They haven’t been using it because they’ve been raking in so much money from the markup,” says Bach.Smith confirms that the Board annually takes in around $21 million from the wine tax. But that money is held in a so-called Revolving Fund and then either sent to the state’s general fund or doled out to cash-strapped municipal governments around the state.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

More in News & Comment

This screenshot from Auburn Police Department bodycam footage shows an officer about to fire his weapon and kill dog on May 13, 2022.
Auburn police shoot dog, and owner claims it wasn’t justified

See videos of attack as well as bodycam footage of officer firing at dog.

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Diane Renee Erdmann and Bernard Ross Hansen. Photos courtesy of FBI
FBI arrests Auburn couple after 11-day manhunt

The couple was previously convicted for fraud and skipped sentencing on April 29.

Screenshot from Barnes and Noble website
Cover art of books that KSD Librarian Gavin Downing says have been under fire: “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts),” by Lev A.C. Rosen, “If I Was Your Girl,” by Meredith Russo, and “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George Matthew Johnson.
Kent middle school librarian wins intellectual freedom award

Gavin Downing refused to keep ‘silence in the library’ amid attempted book banning and censorship.

Kent elementary school teacher accused of using racist language toward student

River Ridge Elementary instructor placed on administrative leave by Kent School District.

FILE PHOTO: King County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office employees left jobs instead of getting vaccinated

This added on to the existing number of vacancies in the department.

Joann and Allan Thomas are flanked in court by their attorneys Terrence Kellogg (fourth from the right) and John Henry Browne (far right) on May 10, 2022. Judge Richard Jones is presiding over the case. Sketch by Seattle-based artist Lois Silver
At drainage district corruption trial, it’s a tale of dueling conspiracies

Allan and Joann Thomas are in trial in Seattle on fraud charges.

Most Read