Councilman urges “no” vote on liquor initiatives
October 11, 2010 · 3:46 PM
Dear citizens of Enumclaw,
In the past my belief has been that the state should not be in the business of selling hard liquor. I have often wondered why the state of Washington has its own stores and a monopoly on hard liquor sales. I believed the state would be served better by allowing free enterprise to sell liquor in grocery stores.
Now that I am on the City Council, however, and I see the benefits of not only tax revenue to the city, but also a proportional sharing of the profits of liquor sales, I have altered my position. Let me explain my reasons for bringing this issue up and the causes of my change in thinking.
There are two initiatives on the ballot: 1100 (supported by Costco) and 1105 (supported by liquor distributors), which will close the state liquor stores and allow businesses to sell items like whiskey, gin and bourbon.
If Initiative 1100 passes, profits will go to stores like Costco rather than the state. The state will still collect revenue from sales taxes. Volume of liquor sold will no doubt increase but not to the level that will keep city revenues the same. The city of Enumclaw stands to lose about $70,000 per year to the general fund.
If Initiative 1105 passes, lost revenues to the cities are supposed to be made up with compensating taxes passed by the legislature. The problem I see with this initiative is that it will be very difficult to pass any tax increases. Washingtonians are not in the mood for any kind of tax increase, even to make up lost revenue to the cities.
This problem will be further compounded if Initiative 1053 gets passed. This initiative will require a two-thirds super majority in the Legislature to pass any tax rate increases, making it almost impossible to make up the loss of revenue to cities like Enumclaw.
I related this information to one of my business friends. His response was: “Government needs to be cut back, there’s too much waste.” I agree with him when I think about the federal and state governments, but not when dealing with the city of Enumclaw.
Our city budget took a real beating last year. Our sales revenues are down. So are REET (real estate excise taxes) dollars used for fixing streets. Services that the city provides such as parks maintenance, human services, the library, the senior center, and yes, fire and police are in danger of being reduced or cut.
The cumulative effects of the 1 percent cap on property tax increases from an earlier initiative plus the recession have begun to mount as the cost of living increases at a 4 to 5 percent yearly rate. Simply put, the city of Enumclaw is struggling to provide the citizens and residents of Enumclaw with the services you expect with less and less money.
Something has to give. Cities are being squeezed. The city of Enumclaw is struggling.
Speaking as a private citizen and not as a City Council person, please consider voting “no” on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. The alternatives for city services will not be pleasant if either of those initiatives pass.
Richard H. Elfers