Let’s wander back to 2010. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is riding high as governor and has an idea: Let’s privatize the commonwealth’s liquor monopoly, because it’s the right thing to do.
Oh, and let’s use the proceeds from selling licenses to liquor retailers to help fund transportation. The commonwealth won’t lose any money on the deal — promise. And roads? They will reap a cool $500 million.
It wasn’t really privatization. It was burden shifting. Politics — and legislative greed — overwhelmed the privatization angle to such an extent that McDonnell’s complex plan collapsed under its own weight. Little mentioned, and likely forgotten, were any benefits consumers might have reaped from a true privatization plan, be it through lower prices, more choices or greater competition. Instead, the debate, and the plan, hardened around how the commonwealth could maintain monopoly profits and how those profits could be transferred to transportation projects.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle beclowned themselves in the process. One delegate at the time said he wouldn’t support the idea “if we’re going to be short even one dime.” Others worried about increased consumption and greater social costs. But, almost exclusively, it was about the cash.
I’m left to wonder whether these grasping pols have any regrets about letting the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control cash machine continue to operate even as the agency’s police force runs amok.
Norman Leahy blogs at Bearing Drift. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.