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No special session for liquor privatization, McDonnell announces

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has announced he will not call the General Assembly into a special session this fall to consider his proposal to privatize state-run liquor stores.

The announcement had been widely anticipated as McDonnell's proposal faced mounting opposition from Democrats and Republicans in the legislature.

But the governor's acknowledgement that he does not have enough votes to pass the plan, a key campaign promise that he had said repeatedly he hoped the legislature would take up before Jan. 1, is a significant political loss.

In a lengthy statement, McDonnell recommitted himself to the idea but acknowledged he needs more time to build support with lawmakers.

He pledged to introduce a bill that would privatize the state's Alcohol Beverage Control system on the first day of the General Assembly's regular session in January.

"We will privatize Virginia's ABC stores. The only question is one of timing," he said in the statement. "As Governor, I will not call a Special Session to debate; only to act."

McDonnell has proposed privatizing both the wholesale and retail sale of hard spirits. His plan would triple the number of outlets that sell liquor, generating $458 million in a one-time windfall to spend on improving state roads. But it would also result in $47 million a year less in annual revenue for the state that the current monopoly.

McDonnell said in his statement that he is willing to compromise on all details of the plan, provided it makes business sense for taxpayers, eliminates the government's monopoly and raises money for roads.

"Most legislators and affected stakeholders have expressed philosophical support for privatization, but want more time to carefully and thoroughly consider our proposal, and offer ideas on how to improve it; in fact many legislators have now begun to approach us with specific ideas and policy suggestions," he wrote.

Stay with us for reaction and further coverage.

By Rosalind Helderman  | October 22, 2010; 12:43 PM ET
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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In the meantime it will be interesting to see what happens in Washington state where there are 2 ballot initiatives to privatize liquor, up for vote Nov. 2, I believe. One is pushed by Costco. I hope the Post covers this vote.

I've read that Washington's governor Chris Gregoire opposes the privatization initiatives. As do law enforcement officials, the state firefighters council, the state nurses association, the Children's Alliance, the Washington Education Association, the Association of Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, League of Women Voters, etc.

Posted by: anonymousid | October 22, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Well, now Governor McJesus and Ken Coochie-Coochie can concentrate on overturning Obama's monumental health care program.

Snatch that new protective rug right out from under uninsured poor kids and people with pre-existing conditions.

Make Bigpharma and Bighmo and Biginsurer real happy again.

Posted by: kinkysr | October 22, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

privitization comes at a price and the governor needs to be honest about it.
there will be a net loss of revenue that will have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere will be from taxpayers.
there will also be increased costs due to easier access to liquor for underaged drinkers. and more accidents on the roads.

him calling new taxes "fees" doesn't cut it.

Posted by: MarilynManson | October 22, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that knee-jerk opposition from legislative Democrats has delayed the break-up of the state-owned liquor monopoly in Virginia.

The sale of liquor stores would provide much-needed revenue for transportation projects. It would provide opportunities for retailers and entrepreneurs. It would allow competition and improve service for consumers in Northern Va. and across the state.

And of course, there's no good reason to have government in the retail sales business in the first place.

Gov. McDonnell's ABC reform plan makes good sense. It deserves a fair hearing from legislators in both parties.

Posted by: jrmil | October 22, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Looks like our governor painted himself into a corner. He champions privatization yet cannot ignore that his plan will surely decrease profits to the state. Oh, what to do, what to do...I say leave it alone since it's not broken, but my perspective is biased: I get my liquor on base.

Posted by: sahintepe | October 22, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Why does McDonnell want to get rid of such a cash cow? Some sort of higher "morality" that he thinks he has over the rest of us? Idiot.

Posted by: sanibelmiss | October 22, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

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