Liquor Store Privatization: Convenience, Efficiency

Member Group : Americans for Prosperity-PA

Last month I went on vacation with my husband’s family in rural Virginia. Ten adults and five children 7-years-of-age and under living in the same house for seven days certainly is an experience. The other experience I enjoyed? Buying wine and beer along with my groceries at the local Food Lion.

It’s crazy that in 2015 I still live under the liquor laws set forth by prohibitionist Governor Gifford Pinchot during his second term in office in 1933. Unfortunately, this November we will celebrate the 82nd birthday of the Pennsylvania liquor system.

Why does Americans for Prosperity want to see liquor stores privatized?

1. To make more money for the Commonwealth without raising taxes
2. Because selling liquor isn’t a core function of government
3. For responsible adults to have the convenience and accessibility they desire to purchase this product.

1. We started the fiscal year with a $1.3 billion deficit. We don’t have to raise taxes to close it.

There are really only two options to closing a deficit. Raise revenues, or cut spending. In our minds, a $30 billion budget is high enough. There are other ways to make money without raising taxes. Selling the liquor stores is one of them.

Selling the liquor stores under the plan passed by the House and Senate, would net about $220 million. While the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) transfers about $80 million into the general fund, it is a losing business and is expected to cost the state in out years. Additionally, over 80 percent of the PLCB revenue is from taxes on the alcohol, which would not go away under the privatization plan.

2. The state government should not be in the business of selling alcohol. The PLCB is one of the most corrupt governmental agencies in our Commonwealth. The ethics commission has fined at least one PLCB employee every year since 2011 for illegally accepting gifts. Just this year in June, it happened again.

You will hear this common theme from AFP to bring the government back to its core functions. Government plays a role in society. However, too much Government is an open invitation for corruption of power. The Commonwealth does not need to be selling alcohol. After all, it’s not doing a very good job keeping it out of the hands of those who shouldn’t drink.

Every time I buy a six-pack from my local Wegmans, obviously a private business, the cashier has to scan my license. I’ve been buying wine since I was 21 and I’ve never been carded at one of our government controlled liquor stores.

Governor Wolf’s main reason for vetoing the liquor bill was because he said enactment would "result in higher prices for consumers." It wasn’t because of the claim that jobs would be lost – even though there is grant money included in the legislation for those approximately 2,000 people who would lose their job.

But what about higher prices? Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and even New Jersey do not have the restrictive liquor laws that we have, and their prices are competitive. Would businesses start selling at higher prices to see if the market could bare it? Maybe. However, if people do not pay it, prices will come down. Additionally, if the Governor’s argument were legitimate, people would be flocking to cross the boarder to Pennsylvania to buy liquor. In reality, Pennsylvania residents are illegally crossing the state to bring alcohol back into Pennsylvania because selection and prices are better.

Finally, I have two small children. To have a dinner party – this is what I have to endure. I load my 7-year-old and 2-1/2 year old into the car and drive to the liquor store to buy wine to serve with dinner. Then we get back into the car seats, drive across town and get to the beer distributor, where I have to unbuckle the kids, lug an entire case of beer, not just a six pack, to the register while chasing a 2-1/2 year old boy. Then pay, muscle the case into the car, and buckle the kids back into their seats. After that, we drive across the highway to the grocery store to purchase food. After all of this, plus preparing dinner, you can imagine why I don’t have very many dinner parties.

While alcohol privatization isn’t the number one issue that the residents of PA want resolved, the majority of Pennsylvanians want to be treated like responsible adults.

Let’s allow private business the opportunity to thrive and responsible adults the ability to conveniently purchase alcohol if they desire.