ICYMI: Liquor Privatization A Win-Win For Pennsylvania

Published by the Patriot-News, Tribune-Democrat & The Intelligencer

By Jim Cawley

The nachos are on the table, the pizza’s ordered, the wings are ready and it’s time to open a brew, or maybe pour a little merlot while we crowd around the TV for the Super Bowl.

Wouldn’t it be great if come Super Bowl XLVIII, after you’ve loaded the party groceries into the cart the wine and beer were waiting the next aisle over?

It’s called consumer convenience and twinned with consumer choice it’s the plan Gov. Corbett is bringing before the state legislature as we end Pennsylvania’s Prohibition-era system of selling alcohol.

Pennsylvania is one of only two states that still run its own liquor business. This is not a core function of government. It’s government regulation with none of the benefits.

Private liquor stores will offer a wider selection, compete on pricing, and create new jobs and business opportunities in the private sector. Grocers can offer a wider selection of beer and wine and shoppers can compare.

It means being able to buy beer, wine or a bottle of spirits, when you want to — or searching for a better price at a competing store. It’s about treating adult consumers as adults.

One of the great things about the governor’s proposal is that, by getting Pennsylvania government out of a business that’s not a core function, it will generate critical funding for something that is: Education.

The Corbett proposal to divest the state of its liquor business will generate more than $1 billion over the next few years for a quartet of block grants to local school districts.

This is money that will go for early childhood education, full day kindergartens, more math, science and language training, and beefed up school security. It only makes sense to use these dollars to replace the gaps left by the federal government after it dropped funding in the post-stimulus era.

The governor’s proposal also sets aside dollars for retraining and aggressive placement of any state store employees not taken on by the private sector.

Pennsylvania has no more business running the liquor business than it has in operating the pharmacies and gas stations — two things that your local supermarket likely provides as the free market expands and changes to fit the times. It’s time for Pennsylvania to join in that change.

We need to end the state-run liquor monopoly and invest the proceeds of that sale of that antiquated system into our schools and our children. Then, next year, I can twist open a bottle of Troeg’s that I picked up at the Giant or Turkey Hill, kick back and watch my Eagles fight it out with the Steelers.

Now that’s a win-win for Pennsylvania.

Jim Cawley is Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and oversees the LCB privatization effort.