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Tax Relief Might Be Coming For Hard Alcohol Sales in Washington State

New bill would gradually lower liquor taxes
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

It would take a while, but we will perhaps finally start to see the savings citizens wanted when they voted the state’s liquor stores out of existence.

Bi-partisan legislation in Olympia could result in a gradual lowering of liquor taxes that have shocked many consumers since the state stores went out of business a couple of years ago.

Several Republican and Democratic legislators have realized what many critics have said all along:  lower the taxes, sales will increase, and eventually (due to increased sales) the state will be taking in as many tax dollars from alcohol as they are now.

While opponents say it could cost the state some $20-46 million dollars over the next year to two years,   state revenue officials say the effects of the super-high booze taxes are being felt.

Following the privatization of Washington’s liquor industry (which allowed grocery and other stores to sell hard alcohol)  the state slapped on a series of “sticker shock” taxes that have resulted in minimal savings to consumers, if any at all.  The taxes were an attempt to recoup the lost revenue from the hundreds of state stores closing, and ending the state government’s monopoly on the hard liquor industry.

But state revenue officials say Washington residents are now traveling out of state to buy alcohol. Idaho officials report in 2013 their state’s alcohol sales brought in $10 million MORE dollars than the previous year due to Washington residents buying it there – for a much lower price. Supporters of the bill say similar figures are probable for Oregon as well, meaning the state could be losing tens of millions annually.

They say by lowering the taxes,  more Washington residents will buy their alcohol here, and in the long run, the state will end up bringing in more revenue than before.

Opponents also say local governments would lose money, because of the declined revenue.   There are less than two weeks left in the legislative session,  no word on how well this bill will do.


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