Law Enforcement Nixes Privatization of Liquor Stores
Many people who have are in the know fear the enforcement end of private sales of booze. Liquor stores are known to be rife with crime issues, including organized crime. See what some Virginia law enforcement officers have to say about privatizing the ABC Stores. McDonnell really needs to get off this campaign promise. He is being a naive Nelly. It isn’t good for Virginia. The true conservative stand on selling the liquor stores is to tell McDonnell NO.
From the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Ashland, Va. –
Ashland is a college town with one state-owned store for selling liquor.
Police Chief Douglas A. Goodman Jr. knows that probably would change if the Virginia General Assembly agrees to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to give up the state’s 76-year-old monopoly on the liquor business.
“There’s no doubt there would be an increase in outlets,” Goodman said. “I’m not aware of what the number is going to be.”
That’s a big question for local law-enforcement officials, who met with key members of the governor’s staff last week for a briefing on concerns about the potential effects of privatizing the liquor business on the communities they police.
Instead of 334 state-owned stores spaced across Virginia, local law-enforcement officials are uneasy about the prospect of 800 to 1,000 private liquor retailers, many of them concentrated in areas of high demand, trying to boost sales of spirits in a state where liquor consumption is relatively low.
“They want to increase consumption,” Dana G. Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said of private liquor interests. “I hope an increase in consumption doesn’t mean an increase in alcohol-related violations.”
Local law-enforcement officials are pleased with the audience they have had with the governor’s staff to air their concerns. They are happy that McDonnell wants to leave enforcement of alcohol laws at the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and that localities will have a strong say in the licensing and siting of outlets for booze.
“It is a good sign, a very good sign,” said Mark Flynn, director of legal services at the Virginia Municipal League, which met with the governor’s staff along with the Virginia Association of Counties.
Law-enforcement officials are especially happy that the governor is not pushing a privatization proposal that potentially would have issued licenses to thousands of businesses that sell wine and beer off premises.
. . .
But local concerns about the effects of privatization on law enforcement go back to one thing — money. They fear that Virginia will not spend the money necessary to expand ABC’s enforcement division, which has lost one-third of its sworn field agents in eight years.
ABC’s enforcement division took a 20 percent budget cut in fiscal year 2003. Since then, the division’s number of sworn field agents has fallen from 124 to 83. Sixteen positions are unfilled because of the state’s economic woes, though the state is currently hiring to fill half of them.
Finkbeiner said the administration expects license fees for wholesale and retail distributors to generate revenue, along with taxes from increased sales, especially in Northern Virginia. The money would be used to enhance enforcement across the state.
Localities also would benefit from local licensing taxes, as well as their share of the state sales tax that would be generated, he said.
McDonnell already has tried to allay concern that the state would lose revenue — $231 million in profits and excise taxes in the last fiscal year — by giving up its wholesale and retail monopoly. That’s a big concern among law-enforcement officials, who have seen their state funding dwindle.
Local government already has lost its share of ABC profits — two-thirds under state law, but progressively less in state budgets over the years — because the state now keeps all of the proceeds for the general fund.
The McDonnell administration has pledged to propose a privatization model that guarantees the state the same revenues it receives through ABC — keeping the current wholesale markup on liquor and the state excise tax proceeds. The administration acknowledges that, as a result, prices won’t drop much.
A state-funded study completed 17 years ago concluded that prices on liquor would have to increase for partial or full privatization to be revenue neutral for the state. The 1993 study by Pricewaterhouse Consulting also estimated that the state would have to add up to 46 special agents to handle licensing, regulation and enforcement of alcohol sales in a privatized industry.
The study further estimated that the state would have to add 16 people in the ABC accounting division to ensure the full collection of state taxes, which Virginia now adds to the marked cost of spirits that pass through its central warehouse in Richmond on their way to state-owned retail stores.
“My concern is there will not be adequate resources given to ABC to properly take the additional workload this will create,” said Robert E. Colvin, an ABC commissioner from 1990 to 1994 under then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
Supporters of privatization say enforcement won’t change much in Virginia under the governor’s plan.
“They don’t control the delivery and sale [of liquor] but, as they do with beer, they regulate the delivery and sales,” said Theodore F. “Trey” Adams III, a Richmond attorney who represents retailers at ABC.
“It’s not like it’s going to be 800 new buildings selling liquor,” he said.
We don’t need additional crime in Virginia. There is enough associated with the beer and wine distributors (and if you think there isn’t, don’t kid yourself.)
Once this is done, it cannot be undone. I certainly hope every legislator in Virginia will take the conservative position on selling our ABC stores and will just say NO. 76 years of profit and tradition must stand for something. Long time Virginians are very concerned and do not want to see their state screwed up by people just calling themselves conservative.