There was a time when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was adamant he would bring back his proposal to privatize the state’s liquor stores.
But now, not so much.
McDonnell, as he continues to roll out policy proposals for the legislative session, declined to say whether the proposal would return this year or before he leaves the governor’s mansion in 2014.
“I’m still committed to the idea,’’ he said. “There are a lot of ways to get this done. At some point its going to happen in Virginia. I just can’t tell you when.”
McDonnell’s proposal to dismantle the state’s long-standing monopoly on distilled spirits was killed last year after he spent months lobbying lawmakers and residents.
The General Assembly let McDonnell’s bills die without a vote or even a hearing. Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate, refused to let the measure be heard until it was debated in the GOP-led House. But the House declined to let the bill be considered because it was expected to be killed.
After the defeat, McDonnell’s then director of policy, Eric Finkbeiner, reiterated the governor was committed to the change. “Whether we do it this year, next year or the year after, it’s going to get done in this administration,” Finkbeiner said at the time.
Members of both parties feared that the plan, which included tripling the number of retail outlets that sell alcohol, would lead to an increase in alcohol consumption, a loss of state revenue and a rise in liquor prices.
But McDonnell blamed special interests and a fear of change for killing the proposal.
“I’m absolutely committed to the principle of privatizing ABC,’’ McDonnell said. “There’s not one legislator that really believes we ought to perpetuate a government monopoly over selling Jack Daniels. ...It’s absolutely the right thing to do. The legislators understand that.’’