Privatizing Liquor

On Wednesday, Jan. 28, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced a plan to privatize liquor stores. Personally, I have always been a huge proponent of the privatization of liquor sales. As many of you know, Pennsylvania is fairly antiquated in many of its processes. In fact, we are only one of two states in the country that have fully state-controlled liquor systems – the other state being Utah.
So, why is this plan a good thing?

Welcome to Costco. I love you.

Privatizing the state’s liquor store system would open up sales to include convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, and big-box retailers.

Taking care of business

This plan will help create opportunity for economic expansion for private sector employers while remaining revenue neutral for the state. Currently, there about 600 state stores in Pennsylvania and the governor’s plan allows for 1,200 wine and spirits stores.

Show me the money

Selling the state liquor stores will provide a boost to the state funds. Through this plan, Corbett has committed $1 billion in proceeds to put towards education funding. The $1 billion will be used to create the Passport for Learning Block Grant, which will provide flexibility to schools, allowing public schools – instead of Harrisburg – to decide what their students need. It will also focus on key priority areas, including individualized learning and science, school safety, enhanced early education, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and programs.

If anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving

Ever go to another state and find a wine brand that isn’t sold in Pennsylvania? I have. More often than not. With more stores selling and more competition between them, this will help create increased selection.

All opposed, say “aye”

Opponents have their say in this too. Those against the plan tout that a privatized system will increase drunk driving and underage drinking. To try to combat this, the governor’s plan calls for significantly enhanced fines for selling to minors and visibly intoxicated patrons, with penalties ranging upwards of $10,000.

There is also the potential for job loss.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 support some 3,000 store employees who under a privatized system would lose jobs. The Liquor Control Board (LCB) currently employs about 5,000 people. However, Corbett notes that his plan includes measures for affected LCB employees, including tax credits for businesses that employ separated workers, educational credits, civil service credits, individual employment plans, and ways to help displaced employees find re-employment.

It’s often been said, that private industry tends to run a better business than government. And I think it’s time we explored this further.