Liquor Privatization Fiasco Continues; McDonnell Punts on Special Session


    The debate over Bob McDonnell’s plan to privatize liquor sales in Virginia continues to be a big loser for the governor.  Yesterday, McDonnell’s 2009 opponent, Creigh Deeds, weighed in, calling the plan “ludicrous,” saying that it “insults the intelligence of Virginians,” and that the whole thing was “built on sand.” Deeds added that McDonnell’s proposal, “which would privatize both the wholesale and retail sale of liquor, triple the number of outlets that sell hard liquor and produce a one-time windfall of $458 million for transportation but a $47 million annual loss to the state’s general fund–is going nowhere.”

    The only question is, when would Bob McDonnell finally admit defeat on this political and policy debacle?  It appears that day has come.

    As Governor, I will not call a Special Session to debate; only to act. Several recent Special Sessions ended without any positive action taken. That is a waste of taxpayer dollars. 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. Some legislators want to wait for a JLARC review of the proposal, while others want to see revised revenue models. I understand all of these considerations and interests. My sole goal is to eliminate an outdated government monopoly and to raise money for transportation. All other details are flexible, as long as the plan makes business sense and is a good deal for the taxpayers.

    Translation into McDonnell-ese: “I know my proposal has no chance in heck of passing the Democratic-controlled State Senate, or even the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, so it’s time to save face or at least move on. Oh well, I tried.”  The problem is that this was one of Bob McDonnell’s major proposals for somehow, magically, raising revenues for transportation without raising taxes. Another was offshore oil drilling. Now, both are dead, certainly for McDonnell’s governorship. Which leaves him…where exactly?  In need of a good, stiff drink, no doubt.

    • The Governor has finally accepted that there is bipartisan opposition to his plan to privatize Virginia’s ABC stores, as evidenced by his announcement today that he will not call for a special session of the legislature.

      Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle rejected Governor McDonnell’s proposal because it would have taken a system that works, and even turns a profit, and sold it for a one-time pay off that would have left a huge hole in our state budget.  It also would have given rise to hundreds more liquor stores in communities across Virginia – a fact that brought a great deal of concern to many communities.  

      I think the bipartisan coalition of legislators who spoke out against this flawed plan deserve the credit for Governor McDonnell’s decision to put it to rest today. People say that politics is too partisan and that people can’t come together, but if this issue demonstrated anything, it’s that when it comes to defeating a bad idea, Democrats and Republicans still have it in them to work things out.

      Now that there will not be a special session, Governor McDonnell is faced with a new problem.  Our Commonwealth still lacks a long term sustainable approach to funding transportation.  Virginians deal with unprecedented traffic congestion, substandard secondary roads, and bridges that are in critical need of repair.   I hope Gov. McDonnell will take a break from his vigorous nationwide campaign schedule and offer Virginians the leadership he promised during his campaign. This is a major setback for his administration.  He can turn things around by dropping the gimmicks and putting forth a serious plan.