Washington's liquor prices spiked after the state's voters decided to privatize their state liquor system but to keep all state taxes and fees in place.
"Sales along the border there are up probably 20 to 30 percent," says Idaho liquor division Director Jeff Anderson. "With the addition of the Stateline store, combined Post Falls/Stateline is tracking about plus-70 percent."
At a recent Idaho legislative hearing, Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, asked Anderson, "As consumers in Washington get used to the convenience, I guess, of buying it out of the store, even though it's got a higher price, my question is: Will we continue having the same advantage? Or will the Washington consumers adapt to their prices and elect to stay home?"
"It's difficult to predict," Anderson responded.
He said, "There are moves in the Washington Legislature, on the part of Costco and others, to try and repeal portions of how that whole system was implemented. But for the time being, we anticipate to continue to have additional business."
High-priced liquors are motivating much of the cross-border traffic. As an example, Anderson cites the "super premium" Patron tequila.
"It sells for around $50," he says. "In Idaho, out the door, that's about $53. Pre-1183 (the Washington initiative), Washington state might have been maybe $56. ... Now, that same product in Washington can sell for as much as $75 to $80."
"We've got something good going here," Eskridge says. "We've got cheaper liquor prices, cheaper gas prices, cheaper tobacco prices. We need to keep on that trend, and maybe we'll continue improving our revenue situation in relation to Washington state. Their mistake is our gain."