Delaware County Times
At his first stop on a statewide tour to build support for the governor’s plan to privatize the state store system, Lt. Gov. James Cawley spoke of how the township’s Giant Food Store could potentially transform as a result.
“What we want to do in this administration is help them serve their customers even more efficiently by creating choice, by creating convenience in the area of wine selection right here out of this store and beer selection, as well,” he said after walking throughout the store and perusing its merchandise, including a six-pack of O’Doul’s.
A self-professed Miller Lite man, Cawley said Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to open the state-run system could be introduced into the General Assembly as early as late next week.
Last week, Corbett outlined a plan to eliminate Pennsylvania’s 600 state stores. There would then be 1,200 licenses up for auction, which would permit the sale of beer, wine and spirits. Of these, 800 would be available for stores 15,000 square feet or larger, selling at least 600 feet of shelf space of alcohol. Another 400 would be demarcated for businesses smaller than that.
Current beer distributors would have the opportunity to obtain “enhanced” licenses that would permit the sale of individual six-packs of beer and bottles of wine.
The transfer of the system from public to private is expected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue, which would be earmarked for Passport for Learning block grants in which public schools could direct the funding toward one of four areas: school safety; enhanced early education reading and mathematics programming; individualized learning; and science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives.
Cawley said implementing a private system for selling alcohol would provide benefits in convenience, choice and competitive pricing only available in the free market.
“Gov. Corbett and I are committed to ending the state-run monopoly and turning to the private sector, allowing them to do what it is they do best — create opportunity and create family sustaining jobs,” he said.
The tour began on the same day that a poll released by Franklin and Marshall College found Corbett’s ratings are the lowest of his tenure. According to the analysis, only one in four, or 26 percent, of registered voters believe the governor is doing an “excellent” or “good” job.
Cawley said the privatization plan is not linked to that, but rather to allow Pennsylvanians to purchase alcohol like residents of 48 other states.
“Candidate Tom Corbett said on several different occasions that he was committed to making sure that government got out of a business that it should not have been in … This has nothing to do with anything other than the governor keeping his promise to people who sent us here.”
Alex Charlton, president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, lauded the proposal.
“For the chamber of commerce, this is something that’s a no brainer and something we’ve been advocating for a long time,” he said. “There’s no reason for the state to have a monopoly on alcohol sale.”
State Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, also on the tour, said he supports privatization overall, but had concerns about the independent beer distributors and how the revenues from the sale of the state stores would be distributed.
“I think there’s got to be a way to make them whole before we move forward,” Barrar said of the beer distributors, whom he wants to participate in the sale of all alcohol products.
However, as his district sits adjacent to the border of Delaware, where many residents shop, he said privatization needs to be considered.
“I think it’s time,” he said. “You know, it really is. It’s been so long and our current state store system is a little backwards. It really is. It’s sad but it is.”