Senate Bill 5933 , introduced Tuesday, would direct that all state liquor stores be closed by Sept. 1, 2012. The Liquor Control Board would be required to sell all state spirits assets. Private operators would be allowed to purchase the right – via auction – to run liquor stores in Washington. The measure’s sponsors say the aim is to increase revenue to the state from booze sales.
There was no immediate estimate for how much money the state could realize under this proposed new system.
Liquor privatization has presented itself a number of times during the 2011 session, including a proposal by Sen. Sheldon (D-35, Potlach) that would have sent a referendum to voters, and most recently, a proposal in the house 2011-2013 operating budget to privatize only the distribution system for an upfront payment of $300 million. Republicans have criticized the latter plan because it relies on a onetime use of funds to balance the budget.
As PubliCola first reported last month, Costco was planning its own liquor privatization legislation. John Sullivan, a Costco VP, confirms for PubliCola this afternoon that the Tom bill is in fact their own proposal.
In a post today, Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center expressed some regret that Tom's proposal will not be sent to voters for approval, despite his being in favor of liquor privatization:
Unlike an earlier bill to reform the state liquor monopoly (SB 5111), SB 5933 is not set up as a referendum and instead contains an emergency clause.
Despite our strong support for ending the state's liquor monopoly, it is troubling to see an emergency clause that would prevent a referendum. Instead it would be better for the bill to be sent to the voters for ratification (as proposed by SB 5111) if adopted by the Legislature, especially in light of the rejection of I-1100 and I-1105.