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McDonnell refutes Saslaw's claim that ABC privatization plan is DOA

Anita Kumar

Hours after Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) told reporters that Bob McDonnell's proposal to privatize the state's liquor system was dead on arrival, the governor shot back.

"Look, I know Senator Saslaw just wants to raise taxes,'' McDonnell said."He's not really appeared to be that much interested in government reform, finding creative ways to raise new money so that we don't have to raise taxes."

Saslaw said he doesn't think the proposal could pass the Senate -- maybe not even the Republican-led House.

"I would say right now it would not pass, nor is it even close at least right now," he said.

McDonnell is considering auctioning up to 1,000 licenses to the highest bidder.

But Saslaw and other Democrats do not believe that McDonnell can make $500 million upfront while retaining $250 million in taxes and profits to the state each year as he said his proposal could do.

"We've been talking to a lot of senators and a lot of delegates that are either open or supportive of the idea,'' McDonnell said. "Every objection that I have had heard that is meritorious we are going to take care when we have our proposal."

McDonnell held his third of eight town hall meetings across the state about government reform Thursday night.

More than 300 attended the event at the Cultural Center of India in Chesterfield County outside Richmond, though only five commented about ABC privatization.

Four of them were favorable. At least one other person who wanted to speak against the proposal was unable to speak because McDonnell ran out of time.

Two speakers worked for companies that are interested in selling liquor (Wal-Mart and Total Wine.)

"I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the commonwealth to take advantage of right now," said Jeff Swanson, a district manager for Total Wine. "Virginia does not need to be in the business of selling spirits to (its) citizens."

McDonnell said that even though the public has no overwhemingly support for ABC privatization that demand it is still the right thing to do.

"I think a lot of leadership should come from the governor's office. That's why I ran for the office -- to put big ideas on the table and to get things done,'' he told reporters after the town hall meeting. "Once you talk to people about why government ought to be out of the business and once you explain to them you can generate a significant amount of money for transportation people get a lot more interested. They'd certainly rather us do a free market approach than have whopping tax increases to pay for roads."

By Anita Kumar  |  August 20, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Liquor privatization , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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Comments

Kudos to McDonnell for finding creative ways to shrink the size of government. Any way we can get government bureaucracy out of our lives, I say do it! Liquor isn't a core function of government. Let the private sector do what it does best - selling legal products. Get out of the prohibition era, Virginia!

Posted by: RichmondChef | August 23, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to McDonnell for finding creative ways to shrink the size of government. Any way we can get government bureaucracy out of our lives, I say do it! Liquor isn't a core function of government. Let the private sector do what it does best - selling legal products. Get out of the prohibition era, Virginia!

Posted by: RichmondChef | August 23, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

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