Eyeing the potential for saving money, officials in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington are considering eliminating state-run liquor stores, turning over the sale of booze to the private sector. Nineteen states control their liquor sales.
Republican Robert McDonnell, who will be sworn in as Virginia’s governor on Saturday (Jan. 16), made privatization of the state’s 300 liquor stores a central theme of his winning campaign last fall. He said it would raise about $500 million in one-time money for transportation, but critics say it will never pass the General Assembly because the state would have to give up about $100 million a year in revenue that helps pay for public schools, human services, prisons and other services.
Washington lawmakers held a hearing Thursday (Jan. 14) on a bipartisan bill privatizing liquor sales. Scrapping the current system would cost the state $322 million a year, but the money would be recouped through taxes collected from the privately-run liquor stores. “Is it a core function of the state to be selling alcohol? I don’t think so,” Washington state auditor Brian Sonntag told KING 5 news. Sonntag issued a report in December saying Washington could increase revenue from liquor sales by up to $350 million over five years with a privately operated system.
In North Carolina, privatization is as much a matter of accountability as it is a fiscal issue. Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) named a budget reform panel to examine the state-run liquor system after ordering North Carolina’s 163 local Alcoholic Beverage Control boards to go along with a ban on gifts and other ethics rules she imposed on other state agencies, according to the Charlotte Observer. Of the 19 states that control their liquor sales, North Carolina is the only one with local boards instead of a single state board.
Pennsylvania lawmakers considered privatizing the 619 state-owned liquor stores in 2008, but the legislation never came up for a vote.
It is silly to chase rumors, but it would be a great step in the right direction if more states decided to sell off liquor licenses. Without going into detail, I have made comments before about this particular topic and on what WA should do. (here) It is interesting to see that WA before only wanted to increase licenses as a budget fix and now they are contending full blown privatization. I hope I had something to do with that.