KING 5 Ad Watch: Would we see twice as many liquor stores per person as California?



Posted on October 4, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 4 at 10:57 AM

Opponents of privatizing liquor sales are hoping to make their case on public safety.

Commercial: "These initiatives mean more than ten times as many stores selling hard liquor including 24 hour gas statations and mini-marts."

Would passing Initiative 1100 or 1105 really mean ten times as many stores selling hard liquor? That estimate comes from the state auditor.

Right now, you can only buy hard liquor from a state-run or contracted store and there are about 315 of them. The auditor estimated that if both liquor sales and distribution were privatized, the state could end up with as many as 3300 retail outlets selling hard liquor.  The initiative doesn't put a limit, though the auditor considers 3,300 is a high estimate.

Commercial: "Including 24 hour gas stations and minimarts. Twice as many per capita as California."

Would we in fact have twice as many liquor stores per person as California? This statement is misleading.

If you take the auditor's high estimate of a possible 3,300 stores selling liquor and consider that our state's population is about 6.6 million, that's one store for every 2,000 residents.

In California, there are 13,321 stores selling hard liquor for a population of 37 million. That's one store for roughly 2,800 Californians.

So would we have twice as many stores per person? Hardly. So how do opponents do the math?

For this statistic, they ignored the auditor's estimate of 3,300 stores. They came up with their own estimate that 4,900 stores would want to sell hard liquor in our state.

No one really knows, but this estimate assumes 95% of stores that currently sell beer and wine today would want to add liquor. That claim is not based on any number from the state auditor.

Commercial: "Twice as many per capita as California and they cut over 200 million in local funding for police and fire."

This final claim is also misleading, that police and fire would lose $200 million.  Both initiatives do indeed reduce tax revenue from liquor; Initiative 1105 would eliminate liquor taxes all together.  Some of that money does go to county and city governments and the state estimates $200 million would be lost through the year 2015.  That revenue though, is not earmarked for public safety.

One could argue that local governments spend much of their budgets on police and fire, but technically, they could also cut transit, parks or other programs. It's not a sure thing that they would choose to cut police, or fire.