RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A proposal to end the state's 76 year old liquor monopoly is on its way to the General Assembly. As expected, the governor's hand-picked committee to simplify state government voted to back McDonnell's plan to privatize ABC stores.
Three democrats were the lone hold outs as the reform committee voted 28 to 3 to endorse the governor's proposal. Governor McDonnell said after the vote, he's encouraged, but also well aware, getting this idea through the General Assembly will be difficult.
"Government's supposed to do a lot of things well. Selling Grey Goose and Jack Daniels isn't one of them," said McDonnell.
As of now, you buy liquor at state controlled ABC stores. Under the governor's proposal, the sale of booze would be allowed in grocery, convenience stores, and beer and wine shops.
"We need to end the monopoly. It's the only legal product that government's got a monopoly over. 32 states have already said you don't need to do it. The free market works better," he said.
The governor wants to sell 1,000 licenses, as well as the current 332 ABC stores. It's estimated the move will generate a one-time windfall of a half-billion dollars. But, as it stand right now, the plan would also leave a 47-million dollar hole in the state's budget each year, which has lawmakers severely divided.
"Abandoning a significant and growing revenue source as far as I'm concerned is risky and short-sided," said Delegate Bob Brink, D-Arlington.
"It should not be a mechanism to stop us from doing what's right, and what is right is for us to get out of the retail business," said Reform Committee Member Maurice McTigue.
It's clear the bill will have some hurdles in the democratic controlled Senate.
"I don't see that this is going to get us ahead. Liquors going to be sold on Sundays, it's going to be sold under expanded hours of service. I have many, many concerns about this whole effort," Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, D-Arlington.
The governor says he has wide ranging support.
"There's a ground swell of people that say this is the right thing to do. The problem is the details and we're trying to work through some of those details in every way possible," McDonnell said.
The governor says he'll take the next few days and weeks to make up his mind about whether or not to call a special session. He says, if he doesn't think he has the votes right now, he'll continue to campaign and let the General Assembly take it up in January.