When Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have sold off the state’s alcohol monopoly, he told the liquor store employee unions that he has their backs while turning his on the rest of Pennsylvania.
House Bill 466, approved by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, would have phased out the state Liquor Control Board’s 600 wine and spirits stores and, later, its wholesale operation. The state would have sold 1,200 licenses to beer distributors, which would have added liquor and wine to their shelves, and to grocery stores that already offer beer.
But in written remarks Thursday, the governor claimed the bill made “bad business sense,” saying it would mean “selling an asset and risking higher prices and less selection for consumers.” Apparently, he’s never had the far-better experience of buying a bottle of wine to go with dinner ingredients or the vast selection of adult beverages that is available across the state’s borders in New York, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.
Instead of ceding to state consumers’ demands (61 percent favor privatization), Mr. Wolf reiterated his long-held view that improving the state monopoly is the way to go, by allowing wine and beer sales in more supermarkets, offering variable pricing and expanding state store hours.
Since he is now the sole person standing in the way of this historic privatization, the governor has earned the right to have the state stores named in his honor. Welcome to Tom Wolf’s Fine Wines & Good Spirits. Come taste the 1930s.
“Modernization,” as he called it, would provide more revenue to the state and “save important, family-sustaining jobs.” By that he meant the 4,700 state employees at the stores whose tasks mirror those of retail clerks in the private sector, workers who do not benefit from the higher salaries of a government pay scale and a taxpayer-funded pension plan.
Tom Wolf of all Democrats, because of his years running a family company, must realize that Pennsylvania should not be in the alcohol business any more than it should be selling groceries, clothing or gasoline. Even guns and prescription drugs are sold by private merchants.
Mr. Wolf ran for office last year as a forward-thinking businessman who wanted to bring up-to-date reforms and bipartisan consensus to Harrisburg. Instead, he is digging in his heels to hold on to an outdated, paternalistic model that’s been long abandoned by other states.
Bad move, Governor, and a very bad start. What’s worse — this is no way to move Pennsylvania forward.
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