Well, its over. Both of the private liquor initiatives have failed to win the hearts of Washington voters. Even though there are still some votes to count, the battle is over.
But why did voters not embrace this initiative?
This year the elections were charged by an eagerness to reduce taxes and eliminate the government stranglehold on business. Nationwide, voters made it clear that they felt that big government had failed.
With voters looking to reduce taxation and governmental control, you would think that an initiative to eliminate Washington’s monopoly over liquor sales would prevail, right? How about an initiative that, as both sides would argue, would reduce the costs of beer and wine sold in Washington state? Hole in one, eh? Nay.
Washington voters listened to the issues and voted with their brains, and not their hearts. I firmly believe that Western Washington’s love for its communities, defeated these measures. They listened to the local businesses that they support and decided that I-1100 was not for them and their families. (Note: I-1105 was defeated roundly). The massive amount of money that was dumped into this initiative appears to have been put to good use, as public education significantly assisted the “No” campaign.
So, what’s next?
One thing is for sure, it was a close call. The I-1100 vote came down to the final votes. The dividing line is not too wide.
Secondly, many of the organizations that supported the “No” campaign, including the Washington Brewers Guild, are not against the concepts of liquor privatization and free markets. They simply do not want it to happen overnight.
The one sentiment that I believe most shared was that overnight deregulation could be disturbing for businesses in the industry. Most of these groups might have been willing to get behind a measure that built in gradual deregulation. Heather McClung, owner of Schooner Exact Brewing, stated that the Guild’s members favor “slow, steady growth in modernizing those laws.” So, its possible they would get behind some, better crafted, legislation.
Finally, this was a voter initiative and not a legislative measure. Public citizens drew up significant changes to Washington state law (called for the repeal of 26 state laws), and I believe that it frightened some people. If a more gradual measure was to pass through the legislature, it might have more footing.
In the end, I suspect that there will be a congressional push to get proposed legislation circulated in the legislature. In the next few years, the State of Washington will likely have some form of private liquor sales and a more deregulated alcohol business. I would take those betting odds.