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Va. lawmakers aren't entitled to liquor revenue

Friday, October 29, 2010; 10:06 PM

It is long past time for Virginia to shake its state monopoly on liquor sales, and it's a shame that we'll have to wait until January for lawmakers to discuss privatization plans ["No Va. special session on liquor," Metro, Oct. 23]. The reason for the delay is a lack of support because of the numbers on projected revenue "not adding up." While Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is going to great lengths to keep ABC privatization from reducing the amount of money in the general fund, the annual revenue from inflated alcohol prices and the highest excise taxes in the region should not be guaranteed to Virginia lawmakers. They have no moral right to the $47 million that the commonwealth rakes in from taxes and profits on distilled spirits.

The original justification for government control of liquor sales was that it would lessen "social ills" such as alcohol abuse, traffic accidents and drinking by minors. These claims have been thoroughly debunked by studies, the experiences of other states and by lawmakers' own admissions.

In the debate about privatization, the only argument for maintaining a liquor sales monopoly is painfully obvious: money. Few of Virginia's lawmakers, Democrat or Republican, seem willing to give up the funds they are accustomed to receiving, even if they are ill-gotten. If legislators really want to keep the general fund stable, they ought to consider cutting back the useless programs and projects that are draining Virginians dry.

Michelle Minton, Washington

The writer is director of insurance studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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