The end of Pennsylvania’s state-controlled system of liquor sales may be near. A plan to privatize liquor stores and liberalize laws governing the sale of beer is being voted on this week. The plan would sell off licenses for the existing 620 wine and liquor stores and sell or auction 1,600 new licenses.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s plan would allow the state’s retail beer distributors to buy such a license, and it would allow distributors, grocery stores and bars to sell beer in wider varieties.
There has been a lot of discussion on NewsWorks in the last year and a half about this. Arguments in favor tend to tout the estimated $2 billion to be earned in selling off licenses and an expectation that the move would result in greater competition, increased selection, and lower prices.
Opposing arguments include fears that people would drink more if there were more liquor stores. And others observe that the law would simply grant a state-chartered monopoly to corporations who can afford the licencing fees.
Here’s a sampling of NewsWorks reader opinion:
So if we privatize the stores, consumption will go up. That’s a good thing for PA because that consumption — meaning purchasing — will go up inside state borders. […] More people buying in-state means more sales and alcohol taxes collected from consumers and more income and business taxes from business. Plus, the state doesn’t have to maintain stores.
A state-run liquor store is one of the most archaic things that I could ever imagine. I have trouble understanding why this debate even exists outside of the state employee union pressure to keep jobs for people who work in an archaic industry. Ridiculous …—jljde
This is one example of privatization that I can get behind. Having stores work to get the customer versus being a monopoly is only going to be a positive effect on most pocketbooks.—DJRobertDrake
First off, privatization would kill the so-called golden goose. It may provide a quick 2 bilion dollars to the state which could spend it in a heartbeat, but the private retailers would not provide shelf space for a greater selection.—Thomas Murphy
It would make a few people richer, but the vast majority of liquor stores would still carry what they always did and maybe a few stores in a few areas would carry great selections but not many. Meanwhile, the state would still control every drop and tax it all so their would be no significant reduction in price. So, in short, a few would get rich while most workers got pay cuts and no improvement in service.—tmurf
People think that privatizing the stores will mean better selection and more availability, but I think […] it’s just a way to collect money up front and lose out on years of growth, instead of properly managing the system, opening distribution up and collecting a steady stream of tax. Private industry obviously thinks there is an extra $2 billion to be made in the industry or they wouldn’t be willing to pay for the right to sell. Maybe all we need is to hire an industry leader to run the state stores or system and they’d make the state the $2 billion industry sees there.—thehumble1