Senate Republicans agree to withhold public comment on ABC privatization plan
We know Senate Democrats are generally opposed to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to privatize the state's 76-year-old liquor monopoly. And we know some House Republicans have criticized the plan, leading the governor's staff to be miffed.
So where does that leave the Senate Republicans on the issue?
Sen. Tommy Norment, the Republican leader in the senate, said in an interview, that his caucus's 18 members have met to talk about McDonnell's proposal, but made a pact to withhold public comments -- both praise or criticism -- for now.
Norment said he knows some might accuse Senate Republicans of getting off too easy by expressing no public opinion on the plan, but he said he sees no need to get involved when the plan is constantly changing. He said senators like to be "more measured and deliberative in their comments" rather than "pop off at the legislative mouth."
"We decided why don't we keep our powder dry until we know what happens? Why get drawn into this debate?'' he said. "We know it's a work in progress and does not represent the final plan."
McDonnell wants to privatize sales of distilled spirits from wholesale to distribution to retail as a way to to provide a one-time windfall of at least $458 million for roads.
In recent weeks, he has made significant changes to the proposal, eliminating a 1 percent tax on annual sales by wholesalers and a 2.5 percent fee on restaurants that choose to buy their liquor directly from wholesalers, producing less for the state on an annual basis. He has pledged to use dozens of reform proposals to streamline government to replace the $47 million Virginia would lose by implementing the proposal.
Norment said Republican senators unanimously agree that the state should not be in the liquor business, but that they still need to see how the proposal changes and are eagerly awaiting an analysis from the legislature's investigative arm, which will finish examining McDonnell's proposal by next month.
Norment said he would personally be "cool" to the plan if it continues to cost the state $47 million a year -- one of the most common criticisms of the plan by Democrats and Republicans.
| October 19, 2010; 10:51 AM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate
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