Valdese Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Making Dry Town Wet
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — How much is North Carolina’s ABC system worth? What would it mean to the state financially to privatize alcohol sales? And what are some specific scenarios for offering bidders 5- or 10-year liquor sales licenses?
Gov. Bev Perdue expects to have the answers to these and other questions at the end of an eight-week $175,000 cost/benefit analysis by Valuation Research Corporation, after which she said she’ll release a detailed plan of action to the Legislature.
“If we decide to privatize any part of the ABC system, we will know what it is worth before trying to sell it,” she said in a Feb. 26 letter to lawmakers announcing the contract with the Chicago-based valuation firm which will earn $350/hour plus expenses.
“The most encouraging part of the Governor’s letter is her promise to ‘consider and evaluate the human costs that may be associated with a privatized system,'” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
The letter said “costs that must be evaluated are not simply financial,” and that Perdue would look at the experiences of other states as well as “whether there is a correlation between increases in consumption and a less restrictive system of distribution or sales.”
“We will certainly hold the governor to these promises as the push for privatization picks up momentum,” Creech said. “Our prayer is that lawmakers will carefully consider all sides of this issue with the public’s health foremost in mind.”
If North Carolina does privatize retail sales or wholesale distribution or both, the Governor said it would do so through the sale of a concession for a limited (but renewable) time period and that any fees resulting from privatization should be used for “critical, long-term investments in our people and our state” rather than as a quick fix for budget shortfalls.
Perdue insisted that if the state keeps the ABC system, local ABC boards and their employees will face more stringent ethical standards and the state will have more direct control.
Her letter came 10 days after the Legislature named its Joint Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control and less than a year after her own Budget Reform and Accountability Commission began its review of ABC. The beleaguered system was already labeled “outdated” and “in need of modernization” by a 2008 report from the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division. It came under added scrutiny following media reports of excessive ABC salaries in New Hanover County and a $12,000 dinner for Mecklenburg ABC officials funded by a liquor company.
One of 18 “control states,” North Carolina allows liquor sales in some 400 state-run ABC stores in locations where voters have approved them. Last year, the system brought $259 million to state and local coffers on sales of more than $700 million. The Tar Heel state was ranked 45th in the nation in spirits per capita consumption but 7th in revenue per gallon generated.
In other alcohol related news…
Valdese voters approved alcohol sales in the Burke County town on Tuesday by about a 2-to-1 margin: beer sales, 1,054 to 514; wine sales, 1,051 to 512; ABC store, 998 to 560; and liquor by the drink, 1,034 to 533. According to the Morganton News Herald, including early voting, the turnout was 50.39 percent.
The Rev. Brett Howell, pastor of East Valdese Baptist and chairman of Valdese Citizens for a Drug Free Community thanked opponents of the alcohol referendum for their hard work, passion and sacrifice of time and talents in the battle. “Your efforts have encouraged and inspired me,” he said. “Thanks for standing firm for truth and righteousness.”
Read Governor Perdue’s letter by clicking here
Read the contract with Valuation Research Corporation by clicking here