Proposal to privatize liquor distribution raises concerns
OLYMPIA, Wash. - A proposal to privatize Washington's wholesale liquor distribution in exchange for a substantial up front payment to the cash-strapped state has raised concerns among some top government officials and members of the state's restaurant industry.
House lawmakers on Monday released their two-year state budget proposal, which includes a plan to allow competitive bidding for the right to handle the distribution side of the state-run liquor business for the next 20 years. The winning bidder would pay an estimated $300 million to the state initially, followed by smaller annual payments and profit-sharing.
Supporters call the proposal a work in progress that aims to improve service and efficiency while helping to address Washington's looming $5 billion deficit.
"Over the term of the lease this is going to be a good deal for the public and for taxpayers, it's going to allow the state to get significant revenue from liquor and use that to pay for services on which people rely on," said Sandeep Kaushik, spokesman for the proposal.
Opponents worry privatization may be a short-term fiscal solution that robs the state of future revenue opportunities.
House lawmakers are expected to vote on the proposed House budget on Friday.