Liquor Store Privatization
Gov. Wolf’s anticipated signature today on HB 1690, which allows wine sales in select grocery stores, is a first step toward much-needed liquor privatization, but more must be done.
Today, the state House passed legislation allowing select grocery stores (those with a restaurant license) to sell wine in Pennsylvania. The bill, which now heads to Gov. Wolf’s desk, is a step in the right direction but leaves undone critical elements of true privatization.
The latest state budget rumors describe a deal to increase the sales tax to provide corresponding property tax relief. Rather than a “dollar-for-dollar” tax shift, this plan would actually increase taxes on all Pennsylvanians by $600 million.
On September 16, 28 days after receiving a budget compromise proposal from legislative Republicans, Gov. Wolf rejected that offer and issued his own plan—to hire a private contractor to manage the government liquor system and slightly modifying his earlier pension proposal. While Wolf’s proposals are significant, they represent bad public policy.
Last week, Governor Wolf revved up his Jeep and resumed his “Government that Works” tour in Lancaster. In an ironic twist, Wolf also promised to veto a temporary funding bill that would actually put government back to work, extending a nearly three-month budget stalemate created by his June 30 veto.
Governor Tom Wolf announced what he termed “historic” liquor and pension reform proposals. Unfortunately, his plans to lease the state’s liquor system while maintaining government ownership and to offer a stacked hybrid pension plan for state employees fail to meet the threshold of true reform.
As the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's (PLCB) former marketing director faces federal charges, this latest scandal shows why it's time to get government out of the booze business.
It shouldn’t take a double shot of liquid courage to finally end Prohibition in Pennsylvania. With pension deficits, revenue shortfalls, PLCB ethics violations, and consistent popular support, this should be a political no-brainer—no matter how much you’ve had to drink.
In his 2015 budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf urged dissenters, “If you don’t agree with my ideas, here is my request: please come with your own ideas. It's not good enough to just say no and continue with the same old same old.” Talk is one thing—action is another.
Just as Pennsylvanians prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, Wolf opted to keep consumers bound by a government system that offers less convenience, fewer choices, and higher prices.
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The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.
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