Sheldon hails passage of liquor privatization initiative

The passage of Initiative 1183 will bring the state in line with the majority of other states and install a sounder process for selling liquor in Washington, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, said today.

“I always thought it made no sense for the state to sell liquor and I credit the initiative organizers for getting the state out of the liquor business,” Sheldon said. “I love the initiative process because it can do what the Legislature couldn’t.”

Sheldon noted that he had proposed legislation to privatize the sale of liquor since 1998 but had been unable to win agreement from his colleagues in the Legislature.

“I couldn’t even get a hearing on my bill, which was almost identical to the initiative,” he said. “I’m gratified to see that the common-sense changes I long felt were needed were achieved by the initiative process.”

Sheldon, who also serves as a Mason County commissioner, offered reassurance to local governments regarding a recent proposal by Gov. Chris Gregoire to discontinue sharing with cities and counties the profits and tax revenues from the sale of liquor in Washington. He said such action, which would mean a budget cut of several hundred thousand dollars in Mason County alone, is prohibited by the initiative.

“The initiative is very similar to my bill, which ensures the sharing of those revenues,” Sheldon said. “Cities and counties are guaranteed their distributions.”

Sheldon further said he looked forward to seeing Washington join the vast majority of states where liquor sales are private operations.

“While it won’t go into effect here until June, I’m looking forward to a better way of doing business in this state,” he said. “Nearly every other state has some form of privatization.”

Sheldon predicted that the initiative’s passage will lead to similar efforts in the handful of remaining states where the public sector is involved in the sale of liquor.

“The initiative was high profile and passed by such a wide margin that I suspect other control states will have some initiatives very soon,” he said.