Letters to the Editor

State's role in liquor sales | Federal Way letters

Tom Pierson’s editorial appearing in the Federal Way Mirror on March 15 ("Washington state should privatize liquor sales") cries out for fact-finding and rebuttal.

Most of us realize that using statistics in an argument can be misleading. For instance, Pierson states that “Washington state will spend more than $117 million marketing and selling alcohol.” Since we are addressing economic concerns, a more useful statistic would be that the Washington State Liquor Control Board returned over $332 million to the state and local governments in fiscal year 2009 from liquor revenue. Cities and counties receive over 18 percent of the net profits, with the city of Federal Way receiving $1,021,130 in 2009. During this economic crisis, the Liquor Control Board is charged with raising an additional $12.7 million above its original budget in the current biennium. This is being accomplished through increased efficiencies and new revenue projects.

Pierson writes that Washington is one of eight states to operate retail liquor stores and that “there is little reason to conduct a lengthy study of this matter.” Washington state is actually one of 19 states who directly control the sale and distribution of alcohol. Each state has its own, unique model. In our state, about half of the stores are state-owned and half are privately owned through contracts with the state. In 2001, Governor Gary Locke enacted a Blue Ribbon commission, involving a broad spectrum of citizens and interested groups, to study the pros and cons of privatizing the sale of liquor. Initially, Locke was a proponent of the privatization issue, but the commission concluded that privatization would be detrimental in many ways to the citizens of Washington state.

The Liquor Control Board’s mission, as stated in its Strategic Plan, is to “Contribute to the safety and financial stability of our communities by ensuring the responsible sale, and preventing the misuse of, alcohol and tobacco.” This dual mission of promoting public safety and generating revenue is a balancing act that is being deftly carried out. Raising revenue is not in direct conflict (Pierson) with public safety when it is done responsibly. State liquor stores have a no-sales-to-minors compliance rate of 94 percent, compared to the private sector’s 76 percent.

Pierson vaguely refers to “continued corruption cases over the years” with no facts or connections to the Liquor Control Board. The Liquor Control Board has had no hint of organizational corruption in the 20-plus years I’ve been an employee of the agency. Is he referring to general corruption found in our society? If so, using the Liquor Control Board as a scapegoat for societal ills is wrong-headed at best.

Auditor Brian Sonntag’s report found that state revenue would increase in the short-term through the sale of liquor contracts and stores. However, for the long-term, the state would have to replace the profit raised and distributed to local communities through its state stores. Do we do this through increased taxes? Which tax would you like to see raised? Remember: the Liquor Control Board regularly returns to governments over $300 million annually.

Mona Moloney, LCB Store Manager at the Fred Meyer in Auburn

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