Sobering Facts on Liquor Privatization

Sen. Daylin Leach’s editorial on liquor store privatization repeatedly misstates facts. Here is my letter to the editor in the Delaware County Times to set the record straight:

To the Times:

Senator Daylin Leach, a former stand-up comedian, is one of Pennsylvania’s funniest politicians. Unfortunately, his letter on liquor store privatization is little more than a bad joke.

For starters, Leach claims government-run liquor stores generate $500 million for the state treasury that would vanish under privatization. But this revenue is simply what the stores collect from consumers in taxes and excess charges. Not only would it continue under privatization, an economic analysis of Gov. Corbett’s proposal projects private stores would produce even more in taxes and fees for the state.

Leach then delivers his punch lines — first, that privatization would push prices up and convenience down, then that private alcohol sales would jeopardize public safety.

But the facts tell a different story. The journal Addiction found liquor prices were about $2 per bottle lower in states with private stores than those with government retailers, like Pennsylvania. And, according to a survey of its own customers, the PLCB found nearly 45 percent of Philadelphia area residents buy alcohol in other states—breaking the law to do so — to get the prices and convenience they want. This border bleed costs Pennsylvania hundreds of millions in sales every year.

Moreover, government control of liquor sales has little impact on social problems like underage drinking or driving under the influence, something the Commonwealth Foundation has extensively analyzed and posted on our website, In fact, most alcohol in Pennsylvania is already sold by private vendors like restaurants, taverns, and beer distributors.

As the Senate debates liquor store privatization, lawmakers like Sen. Leach should rely on facts, not punch lines, to win the argument.