First Step Toward Privatization

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Pitfalls of Government-Run Liquor Remain Unaddressed

June 8, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Gov. Wolf’s anticipated signature today on HB 1690, which allows wine sales in select grocery stores, is a first step toward much-needed liquor privatization, but more must be done.

While the legislation lets approximately 300 grocery stores with restaurant licenses sell wine, it retains the government-run liquor monopoly that limits choice for Pennsylvanians.

Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy for the Commonwealth Foundation, issued the following statement on the governor’s signature:

Gov. Wolf should be commended for improving convenience for Pennsylvanians through expanding wine sales to select grocery stores across the state. However, this bill should not be considered the solution to our outdated liquor laws, but rather the first step.

Though Wolf touts this as "The most significant step to reform the liquor system in 80 years," let’s not forget that it was Wolf himself who vetoed a far more robust privatization measure less than one year ago.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board still retains control of all wholesale and retail liquor sales, dictating the selections available to customers and how much can be sold. In fact, we are one of only two states with such an archaic system—the other being Utah.

Today’s legislation, while an important step, underscores the fact that our current system is not effective at giving consumers the choices and convenience they want and deserve. We encourage lawmakers and the governor to build off this reform by working toward true privatization that benefits all Pennsylvanians by getting government out of the liquor business for good.

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