OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Legislature passed a budget yesterday that expands Sunday liquor sales by an additional 29 stores and eliminates the 2005 spirits surcharge—two moves that signal Washington’s effort to create a more consumer-friendly marketplace, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

“Washington recognizes the benefits of modernizing its marketplace and continues to take steps to make Washington’s liquor laws even more consumer-friendly,” said Council Vice President David Wojnar, whose organization has aggressively supported legislation to expand Sunday sales across the nation.

The legislature originally passed Sunday sales in 2005, allowing the Washington Liquor Control Board to open up to 20 of the state’s 161 liquor stores for spirits sales.  The program was successful, generating $8.5 million in Sunday sales revenue over the previous 12 months, surpassing the Council’s economic projections.  That success led to the legislature’s call to expand by opening an additional 29 state run stores for spirits sales on Sundays.

The budget also let the $0.42/liter spirits surcharge enacted in 2005 expire without renewal—a move that will help reduce Washington’s current burdensome excise tax rate from $21.30/gallon to $19.39/gallon.  Wojnar noted that Washington will still have the highest implied excise tax rate in the country, however.  By comparison, he said the average control state  (state-run system) excise tax is $9.59/gallon.

“Eliminating the spirits surcharge is sound economic policy,” said Wojnar, noting that more than 60 percent of the purchase price of a typical bottle of spirits in Washington already goes to taxes.  “Reducing the tax burden on adult consumers, while giving them modern conveniences such as the opportunity to shop for spirits on Sundays, ultimately helps create jobs and add funds to the state treasury.”