Yes: Privatization, with safety standards

By Rep. Al O’Brien

Only seven other states control liquor sales the same way as Washington state because of fears that date back to the days of Prohibition. It doesn’t make sense to spend taxpayer dollars for leases on liquor stores, lucrative state pension plans for liquor store sales clerks and storage of liquor while the state is facing huge budget deficits. Instead, we should turn liquor sales over to the private businesses that can provide these services more efficiently, conveniently and affordably to the consumer with the same level of public safety and security we have come to expect and generate more revenue for the state and local communities.

Voters have an opportunity to get government out of the liquor business by voting Yes on Initiative 1105.

Earlier this year, the state auditor released a report showing six different ways state liquor sales could be privatized and the end result for the state would be an increase in state revenue.

I-1105 will create more revenue for local fire and police protection in cities and counties across the state. The initiative language is clear, I-1105 will “generate at least the same annual revenue for the state and local jurisdictions…as well as an additional $100 million.” I-1105 not only replaces that revenue and protects that funding, it provides even more … and that is crucial in these tight economic times.

I-1105 will privatize state liquor sales in other important ways as well. It has the support of former liquor control board members because consumer health and safety protections are in place. I-1105 requires every new liquor license applicant to be thoroughly reviewed. Only qualified parties who meet certain safety and security standards will be approved.

As a former police officer, I take public safety very seriously. I-1105 will privatize state liquor sales, but keeps the Liquor Control Board intact and able to focus on preventing underage consumption and overconsumption, as well as making sure there isn’t a massive expansion of liquor retail outlets. Any license holder caught selling alcohol to a minor would immediately lose their license. Under Initiative 1105, licenses to sell spirits will only go to qualified retailers who meet stringent requirements through a licensing application process.

People opposing I-1105 have been using fear tactics to portray privatization as a danger to society, but the people paying for TV ads are the Big Beer brewers like Anheuser-Busch. Big Beer companies do not have our safety in mind, only their shelf space and annual profits.

A YES vote on I-1105 will privatize liquor sales similarly to the way 32 other states allow the private sector to operate liquor sales.

I-1105 offers consumers convenience, and more variety and selection choices at more affordable prices, all while keeping public health and safety standards intact.

It also protects workers by providing retraining and job placement assistance for liquor store employees who don’t find work immediately in either the public or private sector.

I-1105 is a common sense, fiscally sound, reasonable approach to responsibly get the state out of the liquor business. That’s why people in organizations like the Kent Chamber of Commerce, Snohomish County Young Democrats, the heads of the Whatcom/Bellingham Chamber of Commerce &Industry, the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, as well as former members of the Washington State Liquor Control Board and individual business owners support Initiative 1105.

State Rep. Al O’Brien (D-Mountlake Terrace) is a former police officer and served as chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. He isn’t seeking re-election this year.