By John ~ October 26th, 2011.
As Yogi Berra once said, itâ€™s dÃ©jÃ vu all over again. About a year ago, I wrote a similar post recommending a â€œyesâ€ vote on I-1100. Now we have I-1183 on the ballot, and some of you are asking for our thoughts and recommendation again. While the two initiatives have a similar primary objective of getting the state out of the liquor business and in sync with most other states, this yearâ€™s version, I-1183, leaves out some of the more controversial elements of the prior initiative that winemakers opposed, which I like.
I-1183 keeps in place laws regarding payment for shelf space and cash on delivery, makes it almost impossible for most mini-marts to sell liquor (because of a square footage minimum), and maintains a revenue stream to the state in the form of a percentage of gross spirits revenue. [For the full text of I-1183, click here.]
In fact, in their Policy Brief on September 16, 2011, the Washington Research Council provided the following summary of the fiscal impact of I-1183:
â€œIt is to be expected that independent analysts will come up with somewhat different estimates of the fiscal impacts of a measure as complex as Initiative 1183, and OFMâ€™s (Office of Financial Managementâ€™s) estimates do differ somewhat from ours. We remain comfortable with the choices we made in modeling I-1183â€™s impact. In spite of the differences, the two analyses agree that the initiative will provide significant additional revenues to state and local governments.â€
Just as last year, the largest financial supporter of the initiative is Costco, and the major funding against I-1183 are the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. Just as last year, what disappoints me the most about the campaign against I-1183 is what I believe is the disingenuous rhetoric about health and public safety. I-1183 is not about safety. California has private liquor sales rather than a state-controlled system, and yet California has fewer drunk-driving deaths per-capita than we have in Washington State.
I donâ€™t believe for a minute that the wine and spirits wholesalers who are funding the negative ads want us to stop drinking or to drink less. They simply want to ensure that they continue to get their cut of virtually every bottle of wine and spirits sold in Washington State and not have their profit margins shrunk by having to negotiate with large retailers on price.
The other big question for me is what this initiative will do to wine and liquor prices. Melissa Allison of the The Seattle Times addressed this issue in an article published on October 1, 2011. Her conclusion was that a claim by the pro I-1183 group that passage of I-1183 would â€œbring more competitive prices to consumersâ€ was mostly true. Ms. Allison said, â€œThe pro-campaign is basically right. Some prices would fall, and maybe a lot of prices, given how heavily skewed the state would be toward large chains with big buying power.â€
As Iâ€™ve traveled around the country, Iâ€™ve been impressed with the wine, spirits, and specialty food superstores such as Specâ€™s in Texas, Beverages & More in California, Davidsonâ€™s in Colorado, and so on, and wished that we had something like them here in Washington. I-1183â€™s passage will go a long way towards making that dream come true.
In summary, it looks to me like passage of I-1183 will be better for me as a consumer, revenue positive for the state, and not be a danger to public safety as some ads have suggested. Please join me in voting â€œYesâ€ on I-1183.
Filed under: American Wine, Miscellaneous, Washington State Wine