When Gov. Tom Corbett came to Berks County last week to drum up support for his liquor privatization plan, the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry was behind him – both figuratively and literally.
During a press conference, chamber members, legislators and local educators were with the governor as he said it’s time for Pennsylvania to get out of the liquor business.
And the Chamber agrees.
“The Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s members support privatization efforts, based on our membership survey on the privatization of state and local government services when feasible,” according to a statement released by the Chamber.
Ellen Horan, president and CEO of the Chamber, said the decision to support privatization was made because of the overwhelming results of the member survey.
“Our position was taken based upon a member survey where 82 percent of members supported privatization of the liquor system,” she said.
The Chamber’s statement cites the antiquated nature of the current government-run liquor sales system – pointing out that only Pennsylvania and Utah have such systems – and says privatization would be good for business.
“It is time to bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century with regard to the sale and distribution of alcohol, and provide greater convenience and choice for consumers,” it reads, echoing the message that adorned a banner hung behind Corbett during his press conference. “Entrepreneurial opportunities would be created. The retail community, including specialty food stores, would greatly benefit.”
As for how the money raised from selling off the state’s stake in the liquor business should be used, the Chamber declined to take a stance.
Corbett, whose stops in Reading included a meeting with the Reading Eagle editorial board, is pushing a plan to funnel the funds to education through a grant program, but Horan said the Chamber has not taken an official stance on how the money should be spent.
The liquor privatization bill passed the House of Representatives and is in the Senate for consideration. Corbett has said he would like to action taken on the bill before the state’s budget is due July 1.