Pennsylvania is generally perceived as a progressive state- a state rich in history but also a state ready to shake off old, outdated rules and customs and look toward the future. Yet in spite of this progressive attitude, Pennsylvania has not caught up with most of the United States in one area: Alcohol sales. The state still operates a strict monopolistic system of state run stores for wine and liquor, with beer restricted only to beverage outlets where it must be purchased by the case or in restaurants where it can sometimes be purchased by the six-pack, with many restrictions.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking for ways to reform this tightly controlled system and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai is taking the lead. He has proposed a plan that will give the state’s approximately 1,200 beer distributors the option to purchase licenses to sell the beverages currently sold only at state run stores. The Pennsylvania government- run system for alcohol sales has been in place since prohibition and many feel a change is in order. Polls show that most Pennsylvania residents support privatization for numerous reasons, among them the greater choices and better prices that come with dissolution of any economic monopoly.
Privatization certainly makes sense from multiple perspectives, but there are still those who want to keep Pennsylvania in the dark and maintain the government distribution system. Some claim that the current system controls liquor consumption and, in the absence of such a system, alcohol abuse and more DUI arrests would result. However, there are studies conducted in other states with private systems that show this claim is frivolous and it makes me wonder if these proponents of the system have other motives.
One of the other concerns raised by the pro- government faction is that the current system is a cash cow for the state government. The state needs money, the liquor and beer stores provide money, so privatization would lead to a decline in state revenues. Yes, this is likely true and I am sure there are numbers to back it up. But using this same logic, one could make an argument for state- run businesses across the board, in any industry currently showing a profit.
Turzai’s plan calls for a House GOP caucus meeting on privatization this week to prepare for a legislative vote on the plan. The state fiscal year begins on July 1, so there are only a few weeks to settle differences, create a viable solution, and hopefully move the state of Pennsylvania into the modern century. Pennsylvania is known as the state that brought freedom to a new nation. We can only hope that the state will eliminate this state- run monopoly and regain its status as the land of liberty.