Have you heard that liquor privatization is dead? Or maybe just mostly dead? Well, as one of the great philosophers of our time (Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride) once said: "There's a big difference between mostly dead and DEAD." And here in Pennsylvania, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and where liquor privatization actually stands.
The two Senate hearings have frustrated liquor privatization advocates, to be sure, but key Senate lawmakers are publicly acknowledging and supporting some of the major components of privatization that consumers demand: choice and convenience.
Senate Law & Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney stated that his privatization plan includes, "Ten times the number [of licenses than] in the House bill, albeit probably 30,000 less than the governor wanted." And Senator Joe Scarnati, President Pro Tempore, recently wrote in an op-ed:
That is why many were encouraged when, after years of hard work and long debate on the issue, the House of Representatives recently passed HB790. While far from perfect, passage of this legislation was an important first step in advancing the cause of privatizing our state liquor system, which I also support. I will continue to work … to craft a privatization proposal which increases consumer choice and convenience for all areas of the Commonwealth, while protecting our small business owners who have invested so much in their communities.
These are encouraging statements for Pennsylvanians who want to buy their beer, bread, and Bordeaux in one place. But, while increasing choice and convenience is critical to liquor privatization, so too is ending the government’s monopoly on wholesale wine and spirits. As my colleague Elizabeth Stelle recently wrote: "The reality is a monopoly over wholesale pricing and distribution is a monopoly over all liquor sales. Wholesale privatization is essential to securing the convenience consumers want without burdening taxpayers."
Ending the government’s wholesale monopoly is critical for the true privatization that Pennsylvanians want and deserve. To better understand why, check out: Why Privatizing Liquor Wholesale Matters to You and Liquor Privatization Done Right.