During the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, Bob McDonnell said he wanted to investigate selling Virginia’s state liquor stores to private owners. Many of us went nuclear at the time but figured he would move on past that bad idea. Apparently we thought wrong. In fact, an article in the Washington Post slipped right past me on May 17.
From the WaPo, in its entirety:
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration has been quietly meeting for months with members of the alcohol industry and others in the community who would be affected by his proposal to privatize liquor stores.
Eric Finkbeiner, the governor’s senior advisor for policy, has been talking informally with representatives from the Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Diageo Beverages, Miller Coors, Associated Distributors, Retail Merchants Association of Virginia, Virginia Wine Wholesalers, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Beer Wholesalers Association, Total Wine, Virginia Wineries Association, Wine Institute, Sazerac (which owns Bowman Distilleries in Virginia), Virginia Retail Merchants Association, MADD, public safety organizations and faith-based groups.
McDonnell recently formed a commission on government reform and restructuring, which will consider, among other proposals how the state could sell the state’s 350 liquor stores, which he pledged to do on the campaign trail last year.
Finkbeiner and his working group will bring possible ideas to the commission, which is charged with providing initial recommendations to McDonnell by July 16, and writing a final report by Dec. 1.
McDonnell estimates the sale of the ABC stores could bring in as much as $500 million for much-needed road improvements, but his critics argue that any one-time proceeds would be offset by the permanent loss of $100 million in annual revenue that goes to other state services.
Last week, at a public forum focused to kick off the government reform effort, McDonnell said he would not support holding a referedum to decide whether the ABC stores should be privatized.
“For 70 years, we’ve distributed beer and wine in every 7-Eleven, every Food Lion. But we’ve controlled the distribution of spirits,” he told the crowd of more than 100 people. “From a free market stand point, it doesn’t make sense to continue to control only one part of the distribution.”
McDonnell will call the General Assembly back to Richmond this fall for a special session to approve his recommendations if he can build support for some of them. <
Virginia has a long history of having state stores that dates back to the end of prohibition in 1933. The history and accompanying pictures can be found at the following link on the ABC website.
Additionally, Virginia makes money off the state stores–lots of money and that money goes in to other programs. See the 2009 annual report. Download here. (pdf)
What is McDonnell’s obsession with privatizing our state ABC stores? Any private industry will have one objective–making money. Virginia regulates the use of alcohol and its primary objective is not financial. McDonnell will run in to a big fight if he continues with this tradition-breaking stupidity.