By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
DURHAM — Privatizing liquor sales is “not the right business decision” for North Carolina, Gov. Bev Perdue told local officials Thursday during a meeting of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. She said $300 million — a consultant’s estimate of the one-time cash infusion the state would gain by selling ABC — was not worth opening the door to license sales.
“The governor should be commended for this wise decision,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “She wasn’t taken in by promises of quick gain and has obviously looked at it from both short-and long-term perspectives. And she’s kept the health of North Carolina citizens in the forefront just as she promised.”
Perdue went further to say she didn’t want to be “the governor who has to hold my granddaughter’s hand as we walk past the liquor bottles on our way to the toy aisle in WalMart, or towards the cereal in Food Lion. That isn’t North Carolina. That isn’t who we are or what we want to become.”
In the face of an expected $3 billion budget shortfall, the governor has promised to streamline government functions and had more than once mentioned ABC privatization, an idea popular with many fiscally conservative lawmakers, as a possibility. Her Budget Reform Accountability Commission (BRAC) scrutinized the state’s ABC system last year as did a Joint Legislative Committee, which pushed through legislation to tighten ethics controls and increase transparency at the local board level.
One of 18 so-called “control” states, North Carolina is unique in that liquor outlets (some 418 in all) are operated by local boards. The reform bill approved last summer gives the state board more authority, sets limits on local manager salaries and includes rules to prevent nepotism.
“We’ve said all along that ABC is not perfect and many of these reforms were obviously needed,” the Rev. Creech said. “With the governor now opposing privatization, hopefully we’ll have a chance to see the reforms that were made implemented and the state system become even stronger.”
N.C. ABC, established more than 70 years ago in the wake of Prohibition, brings more than $250 million a year to state and local coffers without costing taxpayers and without driving up consumption by promoting liquor sales. In fact, the state ranks 48th in the nation in per capita consumption, but third in revenue per gallon.
Like the Christian Action League, the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police and the League of Municipalities, the Association of County Commissioners opposes privatization because it would increase consumption and its accompanying problems while robbing communities of revenue.
Perdue said Thursday she considers ABC a core service for North Carolina.
“This is a product that is extremely regulated for a purpose,” the governor told the Associated Press. “So I believe that the health and safety and the general welfare of the public is a part of the core.”
“There’s no question the debate on privatization will continue in the upcoming session of the General Assembly,” said Rev. Creech. “The Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate has indicated that they want to continue looking at the issue by first considering the Governor’s research and then making their own assessments. Let’s pray that after doing so that they will be blessed with the same wisdom the Governor demonstrated.”
Read the Governor’s Press Release here