Corbett liquor system idea sure to make someone pop a cork

Let’s understand one thing: I don’t hate Pennsylvania at all. I have lived my entire life here.

But I have to say of all the places I have visited and from people I know who live somewhere else, Pennsylvania still has quite a bit of caveman going on. From PennDOT to lousy roads and of course, the liquor system, we’re still miles behind.

Heck, I remember vehicle inspections TWICE a year and who else but Pennsylvanians didn’t have photo identification driver’s licenses?

So now when we all hear that Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to get Pennsylvania out of the liquor and wine business, you would think there would be a huge cheer all across the state. Wait, not so fast.

Here’s the story from the Associated Press:

Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious proposal to get Pennsylvania out of the liquor and wine business by replacing hundreds of state-owned stores with twice as many private outlets and allowing beer and wine to be sold at a wide range of stores.

“I want Pennsylvanians to enjoy the same convenience that virtually every other American today has,” said Corbett, who unveiled his proposal at a news conference halfway across the state from the Capitol, where its fate will be decided.

Corbett said the plan would generate an additional $1 billion in revenue over several years. He said the money would be used to create a proposed block grant program to help finance certain public school projects.

Most of the revenue, a projected $575 million, would come from the sale of wholesale liquor licenses.

An additional $224 million is anticipated from the auctioning of 1,200 wine and liquor licenses by the state’s 67 counties, with 800 reserved for large stores and 400 for smaller ones. Those licensees would be required to set up separate stores to sell wine and liquor.

Other revenue would flow from the sale of beer and wine licenses to retailers including big-box stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. Beer distributors, which currently only sell beer by the case, could obtain an enhanced license that allows them to sell in smaller quantities.

The plan calls for shutting down the 620 existing state stores, a move strongly opposed by employee unions.

The transition to a fully privatized system could take as long as four years. However, the closing of the state stores would begin within six months and to be completed in the second year, according to the administration.

Those in favor of the move say it is way past time for the state to let the private sector handle the liquor sales like most of the other states.

However, those people employed in the liquor store system are obviously upset because they are looking at losing lots and lots of jobs.

I can see both sides of that issue. I love the way I could buy a bottle of wine in the Publix store in Florida. The convenience was awesome. However, I also don’t like the idea of more Pennsylvanians put out of work.

To me there has to be some sort of middle ground. For example, a licensee must hire 50 percent of their employees from qualified, existing liquor store workers. And I don’t mean the grumpy men and women who have hung on to jobs for all of the wrong reasons. I mean the good workers who are eager to serve customers the right way.

However, it seems that the biggest hang up with this idea is the notion that Corbett wants to give the money via block grants to schools.

I believe more financial help for schools is a good thing. But I’m not sure that block grants is the way to go. As one analyst suggested, why not invest that one billion dollars and then hand out the interest monies as a way to help schools. Or maybe give taxpayers a break on school taxes like the casino industry was supposed to.

Regardless, this Corbett plan is sure to start a mini-war in Pennsylvania. I think most citizens just want a better, more efficient way to do something as simple as picking up a bottle of wine for a nice dinner at home. Sure doesn’t seem like it needs to be this complicated.

— Andy Hachadorian

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About fromtheeditorchair

I am the editor of the Daily Local News.
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