CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue has said for months that she would consider the sale of the state's government-run liquor monopoly to private enterprise to help offset a budget deficit but she wanted to study the facts first.
On Thursday, Perdue announced to a gathering of County Commissioners in Research Triangle Park that she opposed privatization of the Alcoholic Beverage Control system after viewing confidential preliminary findings from consultants, which will cost the public up to $405,000.
The final report commissioned by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has yet to be produced.
But in a statement, Perdue said, "I don'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 at Walmart, or towards the cereal at Food Lion."
Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies sell wine and beer in North Carolina, but 75 years of state law reserve liquor sales for local government-operated Alcoholic Beverage Control or 'ABC' stores.
North Carolina is the only state in the nation to make liquor control a local function, run by boards appointed by city and county elected officials. Conservative critics have attacked the system as politicized and inefficient.
The governor reviewed a 55-page "confidential work in progress" report from consultants Scott Balice Strategies on Jan. 10.
The NC ABC Commission contracted with the consulting firm, paying $225,000 and agreeing to pay up to $180,000 more when the scope of the contract was expanded.
The consultant's report notes that while North Carolina has a relatively high excise tax on liquor, a point seized on by ABC boards in fighting for the status quo, its profits are less than most other control states and those profits are dwindling.
The most recent annual report off the NC ABC Commission shows an increase in overhead to run the stores and a corresponding decrease in local profits which are distributed to city and county general funds and to such worthwhile causes as libraries, treatment centers and police.
Republican leaders, who have seized control of both houses of North Carolina's legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, say the issue may not be dead yet.
Incoming NC House Speaker Thom Tillis issued a statement saying he wanted to review the same numbers the governor saw before making a final decision of whether to pursue privatization of liquor sales.