Alcohol Dependency

My ballot was mailed earlier this week, but unlike Goldy, I was torn over I-1100. I’d really like to see the state’s monopoly over liquor sales go away. The state store system is archaic, and one can easily look at state-by-state statistics to see that states with privatized liquor sales don’t have more problems with drunk driving (one of the bogus scare tactics that proponents have been using to get people to vote against it). There’s an argument to be made that underage people could potentially access liquor easier, but I think that’s a problem that can be solved with better enforcement and larger fines.

On the other hand, I wasn’t convinced that I-1100 adequately addressed the drop in revenue that would occur from dismantling the system. And in a year where our revenue problems aren’t showing any signs of improving, this outweighed my desire to move to a regulatory system that was more customer- and retailer-friendly. I ended up voting against it.

I’m currently reading Last Call by Daniel Okrent, a book detailing the history of alcohol prohibition. What’s interesting is that when the late 19th century movement to ban alcohol was gathering steam, the movement ran into a similar problem:

By 1910 the federal government was drawing more than $200 million a year from the bottle and the keg – 71 percent of all internal revenue, and more than 30 percent of federal revenue overall. Only external revenue – the tariff – provided a larger share of the federal budget, and by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century the tariff’s continuation was the most intensely debated issue in American public life. It would be hard enough to fund the cost of government without the tariff and impossible without a liquor tax. Given that you wouldn’t collect much revenue from a liquor tax in a nation where there was no liquor, this might have seemed an insurmountable problem for the Prohibition movement. Unless, that is, you could weld the drive for Prohibition to the campaign for another reform, the creation of a tax on incomes.

It may make us feel uncomfortable to have our budgets rely on revenue generated by the sale of alcohol, but that was the reality then and it’s the reality now. In fact, Okrent points out that taxes on liquor helped fund each of the wars of the 19th century, from the War of 1812 to the Spanish-American War. Right now, our state relies on the revenue it generates from controlling the sale of liquor. I’d be perfectly happy with breaking that dependency, but it doesn’t happen from wishful thinking alone. It requires figuring out how to restructure our tax system to allow for us to replace that lost revenue. With the outcome of I-1053 and I-1098 about to be decided as well – each having a large impact on how our tax system is structured, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not we’ll be able to do this in the near future – and that was too much uncertainty for me this time around.

Comments

  1. 1

    CC "Bud" Baxter spews:

    Danny Westneat nailed it yesterday in his column. This would amount to a huge giveaway to private industry. A whole bunch of the money that was going to state services, like education, would travel right out of the state to already stinking rich individuals.

    While they won’t be selling the store franchises for $270 million dollars like other states who did this, they do want to sell the Distribution Center in Seattle. I don’t know who would possibly want to buy that piece of junk “state of the art” warehouse which is a maintenance and logistics nightmare. I’m guessing whoever buys it will either tear down the entire monstrosity or gut the entire computerized conveyor system.

    Starting in 1995, upper management of the Liquor Control Board completely bungled this Rube-Goldberg monstrous. I know, I worked there for a few years. What a horribly designed labor-intensive mess it is.

    The problem is that upper management positions are constantly rotated in, as is the Liquor Board three member board. Their was zero continuity. So we constantly got extremely inexperienced managers who didn’t know shit about shipping or receiving, who got taken advantage of by contractors who wanted to use the deep pockets of the state to test a proto-type system. The state got taken to the cleaners. And unlike sensible people, who when they are in a hole, stop digging, our management team put blinders on and blundered forward.

    One final thing. A few years ago top LCB management went to hell. Instead of addressing serious issues, they started attacking and harassing front line workers like they were somehow responsible for this horrible building.

    If you remember, the summer before this last the Distribution Center went through hell. This is because the Liquor Board hired some no-nothing manager who wanted to bring private industry retail qualities to the business. So they hired no-nothing MBAs who totally mucked with the computer system, which totally shut it down for a week, and slowed shipping to a crawl for almost two months. After this fiasco, then they went on a little witch-hunt to divert attention from their gross mismanagement by going after low level employees. Disgusting is the word that comes to mind.

    If these two initiative fail, like I hope they do because the state needs the revenue, they need to clean house in upper Liquor Board management. This incompetence has gone on long enough. Instead of accepting responsibility, they simply fire someone below them in the chain, as they did with the former Distribution Center manager, who was a good guy trying to do the right thing.

  2. 2

    Steve spews:

    I appreciate the need for revenue, but the liquor stores have always been well below horrible when it comes to customer service. Bad hours of course and the limited number of stores are big factors, but the selection is always terrible. Unless you want one of the best sellers, it’s very hard to find. Even a moderate seller like Ouzo is available at only a few stores, which change, and if you want to make a pisco sour, for example, the one or two stores that might have it generally don’t. It doesn’t appear there’s any way to make the stores have decent. My main quarrel is were not selling the licenses to make up for the lost revenue; we’re just giving them to Costco, etc.

  3. 3

    Michael spews:

    Yep, it’s a giveaway. That’s why businesses like Costco are pushing for it.

    There are problems with the state store system, but those problems should be addressed by the state ledg. not by turning over the keys to the kingdom to a handful of big businesses.

    I voted no on all the initiative, these are issues that need to be addressed by the state ledg and if they wont address them, we need to send new people to Olympia who will.

  4. 4

    worf spews:

    As much as I loathe the WSLCB, (and as someone who has dealt with them from both a restaurant and retail perspective, I do), I could not bring myself to vote for 1100. The loss of revenue is simply too great. If they can write it so that we can kick the WSLCB to the curb and maintain funding, they will get my vote.

  5. 5

    Paddy Mac spews:

    This is a really horrible way to get where we might not want to go.

    If you’re going to do it, first, convert to the Oregon model of all contract liquor stores, streamlining by giving state store managers dibbs on the contracts and let them assume the leases and buy the equipment. Then, decide whether you want to phase out of the distribution business. Then, decide whether you want to convert the contracts to licenses and let the market decide how many segregated liquor stores there’s going to be. Then, decide whether you want to give licenses to everybody and sell Jack Daniels in the same places that sell ice cream and Issa Thompson CD’s. 5 to 10 years. Humane, cheap, and no disruption.

    Oh, yeah, and adopt Ron Simms’ income tax plan.

    Simple.

    1100 is going to create a nightmare of tax collection (bring back the tax stamps!), distribution syndicates, tied houses, auditing… way more of a wild west even than California, really bad for small brewers and small wineries and devastating for rural areas.

    And in Pugetopia? A plague of grimy sleazy liquor/lotto/porn/tobacco/calling card parlors.

    Oh, boy.

  6. 7

    Paddy Mac spews:

    Oh, and Steve?

    You can get Ouzo in Twisp. All the time. Luxardo, Linie Aquavit, two brands of Cachaca, Pisco, Calvados, El Zacatecano, Barenjager, Cherry Heering, Amarula, Lagavulin, etc., etc., etc. Try that under privatization.

  7. 11

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    with this kind of twisted progressive logic, why dont we outlaw grocery stores all together? Just think of all the revue the state could pull in if they were the only people allowed to sell food?

    sure would be nice if laws and policy were created because it was the right thing to do, rather than being implemented just because they fill the state coffers.

    our govts priority is all fucked up.

  8. 14

    Michael spews:

    @10

    I tend to feel rebellious with a couple shots of whisky in me.

    @6

    ‘Cause we’re a bunch of backward hicks!

    I have no idea why and have voted by mail years.

  9. 15

    JamesX spews:

    The classic tea-bagging Dino Rossi supporter. He is mad at Patty Murray and Obamacare… because health care reforms might CUT IN TO HIS GUVMINT BENEFITS.

    the federal judge noted that he’d asked his clerks to write down what they would tell Charles Alan Wilson when he was sentenced for leaving a string of explicit threats with Murray’s office. Wilson later told the court he was afraid the health reforms pushed by President Obama and supported by Murray – reforms derided on the right as being an overreach by the federal government – would cut into the disability benefits he was receiving.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/seat.....225861.asp

    The Teapartay slogan should be: “cut all government except the parts of the government which benefit me!”

  10. 16

    spews:

    @15
    The Tea Party slogan is “Your shortcomings should be punished severely and my shortcomings are everyone else’s fault”

  11. 17

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    @16

    is being lazy like goldy or YLBasement considered a shortcoming? god knows we are paying for it.

    just curious….

  12. 18

    slingshot spews:

    Costco’s little advertisement gimmick for I-1100 is a real irony-soaked red herring. You’ve seen it; they compare the price of a bottle of booze in Wah to a bottle in Kaleefornya. Is there a state in the Union with more budget and tax problems?

    @11, Soliciting your opinion on the priorites of government would be akin to getting chess tips from a basset hound.

  13. 19

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    @18

    good thing your arent a comedian, because you TEH SUCKE……

    since you love the mother-state so much, why dont you support state run grocery stores?

  14. 20

    worf spews:

    Interesting to note that prior to prohibition, liquor taxes were a major source of funding for the federal government. To make up for the loss in revenue, the social conservatives of the day instituted an income tax… It’s like a crazy mobius strip of cognitive dissonance with those people.

  15. 21

    Mr. Cynically Crazy spews:

    @9 By “spending problem” you mean anything you don’t like. There’s NEVER been a Republican in my lifetime who didn’t spend every bit as much or more than Democrats…just on different things. Did Reagan spend less than Jimmy Carter? Bush spend less than Clinton? Where is this “mythical” Republican who doesn’t spend?

    Republicans are just children. Angry and greedy, and they need smart adults (Democrats) to control this childish behavior. Yes I’d like stuff for FREE too! Heck who wouldn’t! And like Republicans I can understand being mad when mommy and daddy tell you that you can’t have something for free, and try to explain how daddy has to pay for stuff. Sure, I don’t want to pay taxes. But Republicans want Medicare, Social Security and ever ever increasing military spending (at least I don’t remember any Republican cutting Medicare, maybe THIS time they mean it). I’ve lived through Republican Congress’ and White House and this “mythical” small government has never happened. Every Republican increased the size of government. Sure maybe military and FBI/CIA/NSA more than childrens health care, but that’s all government. And it all grows under Republicans too.

    And Republican means more intrusive government too…not on corporations (they can do whatever they want) just on you the citizen. The Republicans believe the government owns your physical body. The government can choose to kill you (death penalty) but you can’t choose to end your own life (euthanasia is illegal). Republicans believe it’s Constitutional to have the government tell you how you can have sex in your own home in the middle of the night. Republicans believe it’s the governments right to tell you what adult you can marry (not up to YOUR religion or personal choice). Republicans believe a husband doesn’t get to choose when his wife would want to stop life support (Terri Schiavo) they believe that should be up to Congress. Republicans believe the government should decide which intoxicants you can use, not science or leaving it up to the states, only the Federal government can make that choice.

    Yep…vote Republican. Guaranteed more spending, but not on stuff that will benefit you, and a vastly more intrusive and unresponsive government. Sounds great!

  16. 22

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    @21

    did Lee share his pot with you? you certainly live in bizzaro land with a post like that.

  17. 24

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    yep…watching a bunch of lemmings post in an echo chamber is a blast….

    I just want goldy to tell us again why he is in love with geoff simpson….do wife beaters tend to stick together? maybe one of our UW profs here could do a study….

  18. 25

    spews:

    @24
    yep…watching a bunch of lemmings post in an echo chamber is a blast….

    If you think we’re an “echo chamber”, then burst our bubble. Make an argument that challenges our thinking. Make an intelligent point that we haven’t considered.

    You can’t do any of those things. So why don’t you run along now and come back to this blog after you grow a pair.

  19. 26

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    aww Lee…its not like you to get so frustrated.

    where the nutty little jewish scientist when you need him?

    and yes Lee, this place is a pathetic echo chamber…although I never considered you one of the lemmings like YLBasement, exlax, et al.

    a bunch of no tax paying retards bitching about why everyone else doesnt pay more taxes….thats about it in a nutshell…oh, and the usual obama knob slobbing – although that has been less and less lately..gee, i wonder why.

  20. 27

    spews:

    @26
    aww Lee…its not like you to get so frustrated.

    Frustrated? You’re a source of amusement to me. I’m entertained by the willfully ignorant.

    where the nutty little jewish scientist when you need him?

    What?

    and yes Lee, this place is a pathetic echo chamber…although I never considered you one of the lemmings like YLBasement, exlax, et al.

    And I respect the people who come in here and challenge the conventional wisdom, but you’re not one of them.

    a bunch of no tax paying retards bitching about why everyone else doesnt pay more taxes….thats about it in a nutshell

    Well, no. Everyone here pays taxes just as you do. We all pay taxes. Do you want to be taken seriously? Do you care at all about not being seen as merely a laughingstock? Then ditch the stupid crap about “no tax paying retards”. Everyone here pays taxes, dumbshit.

    Or, if you don’t care, just keep making an ass of yourself.

  21. 28

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    really? lets see goldy and YLBasement’s federal tax statement then

    I will bet you a 6 pack of Kokanee that they dont pay shit.

    If youre begging for $5′s and $10′s to pay your mortgage, I am guessing you arent in a high enough tax bracket to pay federal taxes…

    on top of that, goldy is writing off half his house and his car as a business expense…because HA is a “business”..lol…

    its all a fucking scam by HA’s fearless leader…

  22. 29

    spews:

    @27
    really? lets see goldy and YLBasement’s federal tax statement then

    Since Goldy owns a home, he pays property taxes, and since he also purchases things in stores, he pays sales taxes. And since he gets paid for his writing, he also pays taxes on that. I’m not really sure what parts of that wouldn’t be obvious to even a child.

    Again, how are you going to humiliate yourself even further in this thread?

  23. 31

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    @29

    what part of federal taxes dont you understand.

    dont play stupid.

    the people who contribute the least are always the ones screaming the loudest about how everyone else needs to pony up more.

    Its the new American Way…brought to you by 40 years of progressive thinking instilling into people that they are owed something/everything just because they have a pulse.

  24. 32

    why do liberals hate free speech? spews:

    I bet if you shined black light into YLB’s basement, it would look like someone had a paintball war in there.

    …and you know what I mean….nasty.

  25. 33

    spews:

    @26 and 27 why do liberals hate free speech?

    “”where the nutty little jewish scientist when you need him?”

    What?”

    I assume that is me.

    Frankly, given the quality of the conversation, there is not a lot to say.

    FWIW, I will vote for 1100 and against 1105. The main opponents of 1100 are the unions that work in the SLS and the beer folks who figger to lose $$$ to booze if Safeway give shelf space to Jim Beam instead of Bud.

    The arguments that this will mean a decrease of an increase in revenue are rather complex and I suspect the real truth is that any change will be small one way or the other.

    My only gripe wi 1100 is that I do not think it gives the liquor control board enough authority over who gets to sell Smirnoff and Glenlivet. I do not think hared liquor should be sold in convenience stores, drug stores or gas stations and would like to see licensing for clerks who sell the stuff. Those licenses would be both valuable and expensive, meaning that it would be dumbass for a clerk to risk her license by selling to a kid or to anyone who is obviously intoxicated. I also suspect that such a license system might make additional $$ for the State AND assure that the individuals with licenses can earn a good living as the license itself ought not to be trivial to get.

    On last thing, just to give the Himster something to kvell over, I do not think these new outlets would be a good place to sell MJ in its current state. The difference between MJ and booze is that the composition of the latter is strictly controlled. Unfortunately that is not the case for Lee’s weed. The commercial incentives to adulterate MJ (including the use of genetics) would be very high .. just look at the mess we have now with over the counter drugs. Legalization and sales as free as those for booze should go hand in hand with controls over composition. That in itself seems to me to be a very good reason to legalize sales of cannabinoids, rather than “natural” MJ since it would be very easy to control the content of Cannabis flavored smoke juice.

  26. 34

    spews:

    @31
    what part of federal taxes dont you understand.

    You didn’t say federal until comment #28. Nice try at CYA there, champ.

    the people who contribute the least are always the ones screaming the loudest about how everyone else needs to pony up more.

    Um, no. I guarantee you that you pay less than me, and both of us pay less than Bill Gates Sr, so no that doesn’t really hold true.

    Its the new American Way…brought to you by 40 years of progressive thinking instilling into people that they are owed something/everything just because they have a pulse.

    Um, no. It’s not about “being owed something”. It’s about having the best society and living standards in the world. And that doesn’t come free. The people in this world who are “fiscally responsible” are the people who understand this and are working to establish a tax system that works in the fairest and most efficient way. The idea that progressive taxation is a desire among people to get something for nothing and a cynical attempt at redistributing income is something that anyone over the age of 12 should have outgrown.

    We’re waiting on you. Is it time for you to grow up?

  27. 35

    LD spews:

    And hence why most bourbons are made in the Kentucky hills. Over taxation and regulation, as is the case today, has driven these businesses away.

    Live and learn, some lessons, like FDR’s removal, and the Boston Tea Party, have to be taught several times in a country’s history.

    And do get ready for high inflation and costs, due to the massive debt spending of this administration.

  28. 36

    spews:

    @35
    And hence why most bourbons are made in the Kentucky hills. Over taxation and regulation, as is the case today, has driven these businesses away.

    Yes, this is why there are no microbreweries anywhere in Washington state.

    Live and learn, some lessons, like FDR’s removal

    Um, FDR died in office.

    And do get ready for high inflation and costs, due to the massive debt spending of this administration.

    Actually, that would be primarily the result of the previous administration, whose reckless spending and aversion to regulating market activity left us in this hole.

    As for inflation, there’s a good argument to be made that in an environment where we have excess production capacity that the risk of inflation is not as great as it once was. And either way, I think higher unemployment is a bigger problem than inflation.