Washington Liquor Vote May Open Doors Elsewhere
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The measure was winning with about 60 percent of the vote, The Seattle Times reports , which projected that it would pass. The result will be a major victory for groceries and wholesalers such as Costco, which poured $22.5 million into the race, and a defeat for public worker unions, which must cope with the loss of an estimated 900 jobs - most of them at state-run liquor stores - by the time the measure goes into effect next June.
The new law also is a defeat for many public-safety officials, who warned that increasing the number of stores that sell liquor - from 328 under the current state-run system to an anticipated 1,428 under the new plan - will have negative social effects, including giving minors much more of an opportunity to obtain booze illegally.
The debate over liquor privatization is nothing new, but Washington's convincing vote on Tuesday is sure to lend momentum to those who are seeking privatization in other states that are still in the liquor business.
The most obvious new target is just across the Columbia River in Oregon. Like Washington, Oregon has an accessible ballot measure system, meaning that Costco and other privatization supporters could qualify a measure for the ballot without much difficulty. They may be more motivated to do so now that they have found success in Washington, a bigger battlefield.
"The whole idea of privatization will be discussed in Oregon this next year," Paul Romain, a lobbyist for the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association, tells The Oregonian of Portland . "The issue is going to be very much alive."