A Tacoma-based business consultant is pitching an idea that could give the State Liquor Board $300 million in cash if it hands over operation of its statewide liquor-distribution warehouse to a private company.
The idea to put out the warehouse operation for private bids is still in the germination stage. But it is one of many concepts that might get attention in the coming weeks after today’s revenue forecast.
Word of the liquor-warehouse proposal surfaced during a meeting Wednesday of The Olympian’s editorial board. Liquor Control Board staffers mentioned it when asked what the downside might be if the state were ever to turn its 220,000-square-foot liquor warehouse over to the private sector.
Tom Luce of Tacoma met recently with the board to talk about his idea, which included asking for a cut of the state’s $370 million a year in liquor profits that fund other state programs.
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“It’s an idea that’s still under development,” said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for Luce. “Until we have a chance to work with stakeholders to flesh out this idea, we aren’t ready to go into details.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire’s spokeswoman Karina Shagren said a similar idea was raised during the governor’s meetings around the state last year to find ways to transform government. Shagren said ideas still are coming in.
Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, who introduced a sweeping privatization measure this year, had not heard of the idea but was interested. Sheldon has long sought to turn the state’s liquor monopoly over to the private sector.
“I think it would be a good beginning. I think the distribution center is a logical place to privatize,” Sheldon said.
“If you brought modern warehouse techniques to the facility, it would save a considerable amount of money.”
Another privatization champion is Republican Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County, who wants to hand the operation of state-run stores over to private-sector hands.
“I think there are all kinds of ideas about raising money that are running around. We’ll see which ones get on the table,” Alexander said. He spoke as he headed into a meeting with other budget writers who are looking for ways to close a budget gap already between $3.6 billion and $5.5 billion through June 2013.
If Luce’s idea penciled out, he or another investor could give the state cash up front and take a cut of the state’s $370 million a year in profits – in exchange for the rights to operate the state-controlled liquor distribution system.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/politicsblog