The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 3, 2013

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley | Liquor privatization win-win for state

— The nachos are on the table, the pizza is ordered, the wings are ready and it’s time to open a beer, 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 eve next year, 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, twined with consumer choice, it’s the plan Gov. Tom Corbett is bringing before the state Legislature as we seek to end Pennsylvania’s prohibition-era system of selling alcohol.

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

Private liquor stores would offer a wider selection, compete on pricing and create new jobs and business opportunities in the private sector. Grocers could offer a wider selection of beer and wine and shoppers could 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 would generate critical funding for something that is: Education.

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

This is money that would 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 liquor stores than it has in operating 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 the sale of that antiquated system into our schools and our children.

Then, next year, I can twist open a beer that I picked up at the corner grocery, kick back and watch my Eagles fight it out with the Steelers.

Now that’s a win-win for Pennsylvania.

Jim Cawley is lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and oversees the Liquor Control Board privatization effort.

 

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