McDonnell cans plans for session on private liquor stores

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Capital Land,David Sherfinski

Acknowledging that he lacks the votes needed to privatize Virginia’s liquor stores, Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday that he’s decided against calling a special session of the General Assembly to deal with the issue this year.

“We will privatize Virginia’s ABC stores,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The only question is one of timing.”

McDonnell said he would introduce his plan to end the state’s 70-year monopoly on liquor sales when the legislature convenes for its regular session in January. The governor has said he would only call the special session in November if he has the votes to pass his privatization plans. That plan ran into opposition from McDonnell’s fellow Republicans after financial projections showed that privatizing the stores would cost the state more than $40 million a year in lost revenue.

“As governor, I will not call a special session to debate; only to act,” the governor said. “Several recent special sessions ended without any positive action taken. That is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Some legislators are waiting for additional information on the potential costs of the change in liquor sales.

“My sole goal is to eliminate an outdated government monopoly and to raise money for transportation,” he said. “All other details are flexible, as long as the plan makes business sense and is a good deal for the taxpayers.”

McDonnell has made privatizing the state-run liquor stores to raise money for transportation a priority of his first year in office. He originally pushed for a special session sometime in November to consider the issue along with other government reform initiatives. But lawmakers were skeptical of the privatization plan, which McDonnell said would provide a one-time cash infusion of about $500 million, though financial projects show it would end up costing the state $47 million a year in lost revenue.

“We will introduce ABC privatization legislation on the first day of the 2011 General Assembly,” McDonnell said. “We will vigorously advocate for it. It is a common-sense initiative.”

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