The revenue plan a mob boss would love

    Suppose we decided tomorrow that there would be only 750 florists in Pennsylvania, and that the state would auction off the 750 florists licenses to the highest bidders, just to maximize state revenue.

    If you can’t pony up, say $500,000, you’re outa luck. You close your shop and give way to those that can bid serious money for a license.

    We could do the same thing with auto repair shops, dentists, whatever, and start solving the state budget problems.

    Crazy, huh?

    Well nobody seems to be talking about it, but that’s exactly what’s proposed in the current plan to privatize state liquor stores.

    Allegheny County state representative Mike Turzai’s proposal is to close the state stores and auction off 750 retail licenses, netting the state $2 billion. To get that figure, they’ll have to go for about $2.6 million each.

    We’d then have spirits only slightly more available than they are today in the 621 state stores.

    We’ll end up with an artificially-limited number of liquor outlets, each part of a new state-chartered monopoly. Forget about picking up beer and wine when you go grocery shopping.

    I spoke with Turzai, the incoming House Majority Leader yesterday. He said he’s “open to a discussion” about the number of licenses to grant, but he acknowledged that getting a massive one-time revenue shot is a major selling point for his plan.

    “The governor has signed a no-tax pledge,” Turzai said. “I don’t want to increase taxes, businesses don’t want us to increase taxes, families don’t want us to increase taxes, and we have major obligations in front of us. How are we going to handle that.?”

    My friends at the It’s Our Money blog had an interesting post last week, noting how many more liquor outlets per capita New Jersey has, and their higher rates of drunk driving fatalities.

    We ought to have a real debate about how many liquor outlets there should be, but demanding two and a half million for the right to do business is just plain gouging, the kind of scheme a mob boss would love.

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