How to close a $9 billion deficit: Mark up the hard liquor

Robert Martin bought two big bottles of scotch whisky Friday to avoid paying an additional markup that kicks in today.

"They are getting a little bit greedy," said the Kennewick, Wash., man of the statewide price hike. "We need to vote against Gov. Chris Gregoire."

Hard liquor prices will go up about 6.5 percent on average, said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

The increase, which was approved by the board in May, will help the state to offset part of its $9 billion deficit, Smith said, adding it's expected to generate about $80 million in the next two years.

Customer traffic at the state liquor store on Columbia Center Boulevard in Kennewick was up a little, said store manager Julie Rogers. A few customers were stocking up, she said. "They had mixed feelings about the price increase."

Laurie Lang didn't notice a big frenzy Friday at the state liquor store she manages on Kennewick Avenue. The store has posted a notice telling customers about the price increase, Lang said.

None of the customers the Herald talked to at the Kennewick Avenue store were aware of the increase, but they said they are upset at being forced to pay extra for what they called a "tax."

It's a markup and not a tax, Smith explained. A markup is a percentage added to the cost of product, he said. Under the new formula, the prices of a bottle of value whiskey will increase from $10.95 to $11.85 and the price of a premium bottle of whiskey will go up from about $42 to about $46.

The increase will not affect beer and wine prices, he said. Revenues from liquor sales help support state and local services such as health care and education. In fiscal 2008, the board returned more than $322 million to the state and local governments.


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