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Oregon Moves One Step Closer To Privatization

March 25, 2016

Oregon moved one step closer to privatizing spirits sales yesterday, when the state’s Supreme Court approved title language on a ballot proposal that would allow grocery stores to sell liquor. The grocery trade that’s been pushing for this privatization measure—known as Initiative 71—now has the go-ahead to begin gathering the nearly 90,000 signatures required to put it on the ballot in November. While beer and wine are already sold in Oregon’s grocery channel, the state remains one of 17 across the U.S. where the spirits trade is government-controlled.

Opponents of Initiative 71—including liquor store owners across the state and the Oregon Beer & Wine Distributors Association—argue that privatization would send spirits prices surging upward, alluding to neighboring Washington. After that market privatized its spirits business in 2012, spirits prices jumped, propelled by hefty taxes enacted to offset revenue lost by the state government’s exit from the business. Four years later, Washington’s spirits prices are still among the country’s highest.

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