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Privatization of Liquor Stores on Pennsylvania Governor's Agenda

by Mackenzie Krott, published

Governor Tom Corbett

For most Americans, it is normal to purchase beer, wine and groceries under one roof. It's a much different story for Pennsylvanians. Pennsylvania is just one of two states in the country that still regulates the sale of wine and liquor. However, Republican Governor Tom Corbett, halfway through his first term, is pushing to privatize the industry.

The governor will most likely address the issue and announce plans to move forward during his state budget address on February 5. Tweet the news: Tweet

Privatizing liquor stores in Pennsylvania has long been on the agenda, but little has been done to move the issue forward. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board currently controls both the regulation and the sale of alcohol in the state, raising multiple conflicts of interest. How can the group in charge of pushing the sale of something also be responsible for regulating and controlling it?

A study was commissioned by the Governor's Office to analyze the current system and evaluate the potential for privatization of its wholesale and retail wine and liquor operations. The study found that selling off the retail and wholesale operations of the Liquor Control Board could allow the state to take in up to $1.6 billion. The study also recommended an approach that would create retail and wholesale liquor licences, then auction them off to the highest bidder.

Corbett and his administration aren't the only ones in support of reforming the system. An October 2012 poll conducted by Global Strategy Group and National Research Inc. revealed 55% of respondents supported privatization, while 28% opposed it. Support among senior citizens was drastically lower, with just 31% favoring privatization. Tweet this stat: Tweet

"I am optimistic that we can craft an approach to privatization that will manage the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages, improving the overall customer experience, while maintaining the health and safety of Pennsylvania's citizens and communities,'' Corbett said.

While there is high support for privatization, one obvious group in Pennsylvania is vehemently against it. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, represents 3,000 state store employees who may be out of a job if Corbett pushes forward. The group launched an aggressive campaign against privatization, stating how prices would become higher and alcohol-related problems would increase.

The website additionally comments, "It's virtually impossible for minors or already intoxicated adults to buy alcohol in PA's Wine & Spirits stores, but that won't be the case with a part-time, minimum wage clerk at the local convenience store."

In a press release from the Office of the Governor, Corbett said, "Our system of state stores hearkens back to a time government thought it knew best what was good for us. History has shown – as it always will – that the people, not government bureaucrats, know best how to live their lives.''

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