Hey, Washington voters, how ’bout them new liquor prices?
So, what’s the deal? You were promised lower prices, larger selection, greater availability, right? Well, that’s what the commercials said, anyway. But those commercials were written and paid for by the large businesses who stood to gain from your “yes” vote, not by concerned citizens.
The actual initiative? That said something else, and if you didn’t read it, and you voted for I-1183, you may be a bit dazed and confused right about now.
The initiative said:
(2) This initiative will:
(e) Require private distributors who get licenses to distribute liquor to pay ten percent of their gross spirits revenues to the state during the first two years and five percent of their gross spirits revenues to the state after the first two years;
(j) Require private retailers who get licenses to sell liquor to pay seventeen percent of their gross spirits revenues to the state;
It seems a lot of people thought that privatizing liquor sales also meant essentially disbanding the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB). That was definitely not the case, and the WSLCB is not a happy camper.
In their “Concise Explanatory Statement” of the new statutes and the rule implementing them, they’ve made it pretty clear, repeatedly, that:
Although 1-1183 amends the powers of the Liquor Control Board, the board clearly has authority to do rulemaking that affects how licensees may sell liquor:
RCW 66.08.030 ”The power of the board to make regulations under chapter 34.05 RCW extends to:
• (6) Regulating the sale of liquor kept by the holders of licenses which entitle the holder to purchase and keep liquor for sale;
• (12) Prescribing the conditions, accommodations, and qualifications requisite for the obtaining of licenses to sell beer, wines, and spirits, and regulating the sale of beer, wines, and spirits thereunder;
Together these sections referenced above clearly show that the board has the authority to adopt rules governing the sale of liquor by licensees, including a clarification or further limitation on sales.
That’s some pretty broad discretionary authority. Just so you know where all these high prices are coming from, here’s my simplified outline of the liquor taxes in WA:
Tax on certain sales of intoxicating liquors — Additional taxes for specific purposes — Collection.
(1) There is levied and collected a tax – 15% of shelf price, paid by consumer
(2) There is levied and collected a tax – 10% of sale price, paid by distributor
(3) There is levied and collected a tax – $1.72/liter, paid by distributors
There is levied and collected a tax – $1.72/liter, paid by consumer
(4) An additional tax is imposed – increase all the above taxes by 14%
(5) An additional tax is imposed – $0.07/liter, paid by distributors on sales to bars
An additional tax is imposed – $0.07/liter, paid by consumer at retailers
(6) (a) An additional tax is imposed – 3.4%, paid by consumer at retailers
(b) An additional tax is imposed – 2.3% of sale price, paid by distributors
(c) An additional tax is imposed – $0.41/liter, paid by distributors on sales to bars
An additional tax is imposed – $0.41/liter, paid by consumer at retailers
(7) (a) An additional tax is imposed – $1.33/liter, paid by consumer at retailers
(9) The taxes imposed in this section must be paid by the buyer to the seller, and each seller must collect from the buyer the full amount of the tax payable in respect to each taxable sale under this section. The taxes required by this section to be collected by the seller must be stated separately from the selling price, and for purposes of determining the tax due from the buyer to the seller, it is conclusively presumed that the selling price quoted in any price list does not include the taxes imposed by this section.
Still wondering why liquor prices are so high here? For the complete language of RCW 82.08.150, go here.
For a wonderful android app to help you quickly calculate the final cost of your spirits purchases, go here.