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Liquor privatization defeated? Not so, says lawmaker

The latest count of election ballots show both propositions to get Washington state out of the liquor business have failed. But the issue is not going away. A new privatization proposal has surfaced in Olympia on the heels of those defeats.

A state senator from Mason County says he wants to take another run at ending Washington state's monopoly on liquor distribution and sales. Democrat Tim Sheldon claims the election defeat of both liquor initiatives was not a vote for the status quo.

"Many people could say in the legislature that, 'Well, the voters have had their say. The issue is resolved.' I don't believe so, because I think with some changes it would be very popular," said Sheldon.

The changes include auctioning retail liquor licenses to the highest private bidders, potentially netting millions of dollars. State operated stores would be closed. The state's central liquor distribution warehouse would also be sold off.

A spokesman for the union representing liquor store clerks says privatization is still a bad idea. They'll oppose it in the 2011 legislative session again on grounds of public safety and job losses.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.