Sunday, August 27, 2017

From the Archives: State Senator Mark Obenshain on Virginia liquor privatization: 'I was for it before it was cool'

State Senator Mark Obenshain on Virginia liquor privatization: 'I was for it before it was cool'
August 27, 2010 10:37 AM MST

A member of Governor Bob McDonnell’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring, state Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg says “I was for it before it was cool” when asked what he thinks about the governor’s proposals to privatize the Commonwealth’s monopoly on the sale of distilled spirits.

ABC privatization was a central topic of discussion when Governor McDonnell held a town hall meeting on the campus of James Madison University on August 26, and Senator Obenshain took a few minutes with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner to explain his support for the proposals.

“I’ve been pushing ABC privatization for several years,” said Obenshain, “and I was delighted last year when the Governor announced that he was going to include that as part of his transportation agenda. I’ve been working very closely with the administration, I’m fully on board as a member of the team, and I look forward to seeing it pushed through to fruition.”

‘Government’s essential mission’
Obenshain became involved in this issue, he said, because “I’ve always been a free-market guy. I believe in reform. I believe in prioritizing and figuring out what government’s essential mission is, and what it’s not.”

Mark Obenshain liquor law Prohibition privatization ABC Harrisonburg Virginia politics
Speaking “frankly,” Obenshain added, “running a monopoly [and] running a statewide retail operation is something that state government really has no business being in. They’ve got to get out. We’re now 76 years post-Prohibition. Notwithstanding the fact that Virginia is a tradition-bound state -- which I love about Virginia -- it is about time for us to enter the post-Prohibition era.”

Asked what his colleagues in the state Senate are thinking about ABC privatization, Obenshain replied:

“I think a lot of them are keeping their powder dry,” because they have two major concerns.

“Number one, can it be done in an economically responsible way, and number two, can it be done in a socially responsible way?”

‘Crafting his proposal’
Obenshain explained that “the governor is crafting his proposal in a way that both of those questions can be answered in the affirmative. We can do it without losing the revenue stream that’s generated through our public ABC store operation and we can do it in a way that doesn’t endanger the public health [or] public safety.”

Addressing the worries of many who question the ABC privatization idea, Obenshain offered these assurances:

“It doesn’t put a liquor store on every corner. It preserves the right of localities and local governments and community organizations to express their support or opposition to proposed locations for licensees.”

He added that privatization “can be done in a way that satisfies the concerns of those who are on the fence.”

Obenshain conceded that there will be “people who are going to stake out a position in opposition to it,” including some “motivated by social reasons.”

‘Good idea for Virginia’
Identifying another set of opponents, the Harrisonburg senator suggested that some “are going to be opposed to it because it represents an infusion of capital into the transportation system. Their vision for solving the transportation problem is to raise taxes. As a consequence, anything that gets in the way of their effort to raise taxes is going to be something that they’re going to oppose.”

Obenshain summed up his views on ABC privatization by saying the governor’s proposals will “make good sense for Virginians.

“I would not support it if it was going to result in increased incidence of alcohol abuse,” he said, “or liquor stores on every corner or [become] a drain on the resources of the Commonwealth. I believe it can be done without any of that and I believe it’s a good idea for Virginia.”

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on August 27, 2010. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

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