State liquor initiatives could cost local governments money

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on October 25, 2010 at 7:16 PM

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- As the future of state liquor sales hangs in the balance with initiatives 1100 and 1105, city and county governments are bracing for what their passage could mean.

If passed, the initiatives will transfer the sale of spirits from the state's Liquor Control Board to retailers currently selling beer and wine, boosting private business

For every bottle sold, the State of Washington gives some of the tax dollars to cities and counties. In fiscal year 2010, the state handed out $370.3 million. That has cities like Sedro-Woolley preparing for a loss of about $135,000 if the initiatives pass.

"That is more than our entire jail budget will be for 2011," says City Supervisor Eron Burg. "It is more than it costs to hire one police officer."

Burg says liquor tax money from the state goes into the city's police budget. He says it's too soon to tell where the city council would decide to make up for the loss. The total budget in Sedro-Woolley is around $5 million.

"I think most people look at it and think, 'well we pay a lot in Washington. If this passes, then we get a better deal on liquor," he says. "No one really thinks about where those dollars flow."

Cities across the state could be forced to make some tough choices if state liquor sales go away. For example, Mt. Vernon received about $380,000 from the state last fiscal year. Everett received about $1.3 million. The state liquor control board says Seattle got $7.5 million.

Skagit County says cuts would likely be made in community services like drug treatment programs.

Opposing I-1100, the Protect Our Communities campaign says the initiative is too risky. It will take much needed money from the state and local municipalities and overwhelmingly increase the presence of hard alcohol in Washington's communities.   

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