By connecting arrows together on the ballot, voters and the lines they draw will determine the outcome of political policy as well as governmental positions in the state and county. Some of these lines, drawn by voters on this year’s ballot for the Nov. 8 election, will represent votes for or against initiatives, resolutions and amendments.
Iris Maute-Gibson, the Associated Students vice president for governmental affairs, said that Initiatives 1183 and 1125 are two particular pieces of legislation on the ballot that are of special interest to students. From privatizing liquor sales to changing transportation expenditures, there are measures in these two initiatives that student voters should recognize before they draw their lines.
“This measure would close state liquor stores and sell their assets; license private parties to sell and distribute spirits; set license fees based on sales; regulate licensees; and change regulation of wine distribution,” according to the I-1183 ballot summary.
Costco’s Kirkland Signature Vodka, Fred Meyer’s Spiced-Rum and Safeway Gin: For now, these products cannot be purchased anywhere in Washington, since the state government controls all distribution and sales of liquor.
Washington is one of 18 states where liquor sales are solely regulated by the state. If I-1183 passes, select private retailers will be able to purchase liquor distribution licenses and sell spirits in their stores. Not every small, mom-and-pop business could buy a distribution license and start selling booze.
Retailers could only sell liquor in stores that have at least 10,000 square feet of enclosed retail space in a single structure, and the Liquor Control Board would have to approve all private distributors, according to the voters’ pamphlet published by the Washington secretary of state’s office and the Whatcom County Auditor. This initiative would not change the laws regarding the distribution of beer and wine, but it would remove older regulations restricting price competition on wine sales, according to the voters’ pamphlet.
Maute-Gibson represents Western students on the Washington Student Association Board of Directors, a coalition of universities and community colleges that advocates policy for the 120,000 students it represents. The WSA decided not to take any stand on I-1183, stating that the initiative had too much controversial rhetoric and unsupported estimates, Maute-Gibson said.
“Rather than taking a stance on it, we’re really urging students to look past the narrow scope of a lot of the rhetoric and try to understand the bill as a whole,” Maute-Gibson said.
A lot of the controversy around I-1183 is based on the funding for both sides of the bill. Costco, the main financial backer for I-1183, has donated more than $20 million in campaign funds, according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. Beer and wine suppliers provided the majority of funds for the campaign against I-1183, due in part to the assumption that increased sales of liquor will lead to decreased revenues from beer and wine sales, according to NO on I-1183: Protect Our Communities, an advocacy group opposed to the measure.
The group argues that funding for I-1183 from companies, such as Costco, shows that large corporation are trying to buy out the election in pursuit of large profits. These controversies, as well as potential society consequences such as increased availability of alcohol to minors and increased domestic violence, played a large part in the WSA’s decision to remain nuetral toward I-1183, said Maute-Gibson.
“We need to be sure that we’re factoring in the fact that increases in consumption will likely lead to increases in volence, increases in death by drunk driving incidents, and that sort of thing,” Maute-Gibson said. “I think that people oftentimes don’t factor in those, and so that’s really important to think about.”
This is not the first time that a measure to privatize liquor has appeared on the ballot. Last year, Initiatives 1105 and 1100 both attempted to take the power of liquor distribution away from the state.
Neither bill passed.
Some voters feared that these initiatives would drastically decrease state revenue from liquor sales. In response to the two failed measures, I-1183 would require a 17 percent fee from all retail liquor sales to go directly to the state.
Financial estimates included with the initiative in the voters’ pamphlet show that the fee may raise between $180 to $220 million in revenue in the next six fiscal years, but opponents of the measure say that this revenue cannot be promised.
Due to the conflicting information regarding I-1183, Maute-Gibson said the WSA will leave it to the students to choose for themselves.
“At some point, it’s really important to take a stance and advocate for students and then other times, it’s important to really focus on the education and empowering of students to make these decisions,” Maute-Gibson said. “Hopefully, students will do a lot of research on the process.”
“This measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the legislature and be project-specific’” according to the I-1125 ballot summary.
Prominent Washington state conservative political activist Tim Eyman is a primary sponsor of I-1125.
The initiative would require that revenues gained from tolls could only be used to cover the costs of specific projects funded through those tolls.
Once a project has been completed, any toll that covered its cost would end. In addition, the measure proposes that revenues from gas taxes or toll lanes on state highways could not be used by the state for any non-highway related purpose.
I-1125 would give legislators the sole power to set tolls. Under existing toll laws, most tolls are set by a state transportation commission, according to the initiative’s explanatory statement in the voters’ pamphlet.
I-1125 was the only piece of legislation that the WSA took a stance against, which Maute-Gibson said was due to the negative effects I-1125 could have on students.
Maute-Gibson said I-1125’s restriction on toll-fund allocation would delay several transportation projects, such as the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge replacement across Lake Washington in Seattle, the Clark County Columbia River Crossing, and the replacement of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct.
“Many other really community-vital projects would lose vital funding,” Maute-Gibson said. “It would create a lot more gridlock in our system, stall growth and create a lot of hassle for citizens of Washington.”
The WSA also had an issue with elected politicians being the only entity with the ability to regulate tolling, Maute-Gibson said. I-1125 would allow legislators from the Interstate-5 corridor to determine toll policies throughout the state, she said.
“It would really particularly harm students, families and the communities in eastern Washington, which is someting that the WSA is able to take in account,” Maute-Gibson said.
Maute-Gibson said that even though there aren’t any current projects in Whatcom County funded with tolls, students who need to travel outside the county to visit home or go to work could be harmed by I-1125’s implications.
Proponents of I-1125 state that having stable toll rates instituted by elected politicians will be a safer bet than to allow non-elected bureaucracies the power to regulate.
Those opposed say that I-1125 will decrease jobs, harm the economy and create more taffic.
Maute-Gibson said that it is important to look at the initiative’s long-term effects. She said that I-1125 could slow down commerce and decrease the amount of available jobs, which in turn could harm the state’s economy.
The WSA wants to ensure that the state has a vital economy so that future college graduates will have a strong economy and work force to enter so they can prosper, Maute-Gibson said.