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 editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Washington health officials discuss response to new COVID variant

Things will be handled with Omicron variant similar to the Delta variant.

File photo
As new COVID-19 variant looms, vaccination disparities linger in King County

County data shows gaps among age, geography and race.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember Dunn will challenge Rep. Kim Schrier for U.S. Congress seat

The current County Councilmember would be following in his late mother’s footsteps

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
King County and Port of Seattle to collaborate on waste-to-fuel study

The study is aimed at identifying logistics of developing aviation fuel out of municipal garbage.

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

A Snoqualmie Officer was involved in a shooting Tuesday night, Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.
Man killed by Snoqualmie Police was homeless, living in car

The 33-year-old man who was killed by a Snoqualmie police officer late… Continue reading

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Homeless encampment in a wooded area in Auburn on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
What the history of homelessness in our region can teach us about our current crisis

A talk with the author of “Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City.”