State-owned liquor stores a good thing
TO THE EDITORS:
As the Pennsylvania Senate debates the liquor-privatization bill, it may be a good time for all of us to take a step backward and consider all of the ramifications that privatization may have.
First of all, the premise that some of our local legislators have taken, that liquor sales are not the role of state government or that we should never have been in the business of selling liquor in the first place, is flawed.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, created in November 1933, came into existence just four days before the repeal of 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, AKA, Prohibition.
Then Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot stated, "The purpose of the Liquor Control Board is to discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible." There has always been a concern about the deleterious effects of consuming alcohol, and rightfully so.
Liquor privatization will most certainly lead to liquor proliferation. All anyone needs to do is to read our daily newspaper to see if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
A perfect example is the tragic story of Patricia Ann Crouse, whose mother spoke out about how drug and alcohol abuse led to the murder of her daughter. This story appeared on the same day and same page as the coverage of the liquor-privatization efforts in Harrisburg. Can anyone else connect the dots here?
Will doubling the number of liquor retailers, expanding the sales of six packs, 12 packs and 64-ounce containers of beer, as well as selling booze in grocery stores, result in a reduction of senseless crimes in our county and state? Will liquor privatization lead to a reduction of DUIs?
Everything in Harrisburg seems to be focused on getting the state out of liquor sales to provide for convenience, variety, etc. Little is mentioned about how much the LCB contributes to the Pennsylvania economy and the important role that it plays in educating the public about the dangers of alcohol consumption.
There are big risks to the state economy by selling the state stores, which currently produce about $500 million annually for the coffers.
While the sale may produce a one-time $1.7 billion in license sales and another $352 million in annual sales taxes and liquor tax revenue, there is nobody in Harrisburg who can predict with any certainty whether the sale of the stores will be a net gain or loss long term.
Given the dire condition of our state budget, trying to pull out from the worst economic downturn in 80 years, how can we risk disposing of an asset that produces guaranteed revenue to the commonwealth year after year.
Wouldn't it be smarter to allow the state stores to continue, providing them with an opportunity, say, for two years to prove they can modernize, enhance variety, expand locations and increase revenue as opposed to selling them?
The LCB does play an important role in Pennsylvania, controlling and educating the public about alcohol consumption.
This is just as important today as it was in 1933, maybe more so.
Gary M. Levinson