CAMPAIGN '10: The Truth Behind I-1100/1105

CAMPAIGN '10: The Truth Behind I-1100/1105
TRI-CITIES -- It's a battle over booze. Two initiatives on the ballot would end state-run liquor stores and let private companies sell spirits instead.

You've seen the ads now Action News is pulling the numbers to see if the claims add up.

Booze brings in big bucks for the state. Washington not only controls the distribution and sale of hard liquor, but it also is one of just nine states where you can only buy from a state-owned or contract store. But two initiatives on the ballot threaten to take it all away.

Liquor is heavily taxed in Washington -- you pay more for a bottle of booze than in any other state. Initiatives 1100 and 1105 would make it so any place that now sells beer and wine could get a license to sell liquor.

Opponents have been all over TV trying to convince voters that it's a public safety issue. So Action News looked into the claims.

Both initiatives would cut out a big chunk of revenue from the state at a time when it’s already in the red.

The state Office of Financial Management says the initiatives would mean cuts into the general fund up to $85 million over five years. Plus, local governments would lose up to $200 million over same period.

That's a big hit. But it's important to point out that money is not earmarked for public safety. And what about this claim?

No on 1100/1105 ad: "These initiatives mean more than 10 times as many stores selling hard liquor including 24-hour gas stations and mini-marts."

That estimate comes from the state auditor. Right now there are 315 stores selling liquor in Washington. The auditor estimates that if both liquor sales and distribution were privatized, we'd have 10 times as many retailers.

So far the numbers in the ad match state estimates. But what about this?

No on 1100/1105 commercial: "including 24-hour gas stations and minimarts. Twice as many per capita as California."

If you take the state estimates, this is not true. Action News crunched the numbers. In California, there are a reported 13,321 stores selling hard liquor for a population of nearly 37 million. That's one store for roughly 2,800 Californians.

If the initiative passes in Washington it would mean an estimated 3,300 stores selling liquor for a population of 6.6 million, that's one store for every 2,000 residents. That's not twice as many stores per person.

Political spin strikes again. And with 1100/1105, the lines are drawn. But it's up to you to decide; privatize and cut into state and local budgets or keep things the same?

We'll find out come Novemeber if all the buzz paid off.

Action News thought it was important for you to know who's got a dog in this fight, big box stores like Costco are backing the "yes" vote. And on the "no" side are wine and beer distributors.

On Sunday, the Tri-City Herald endorsed a 'no' vote on both initiatives saying now is not the time to cut into the state and local revenue.