End the state stores: Democratic reps must listen to their party members

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Gov. Tom Corbett had barely finished describing his plan for selling off the state-owned and state-run liquor system when Democratic legislators started explaining why they wouldn't support it. They obviously aren't listening to their electorate.

Pennsylvanians have been loud and clear in stating their opposition to the Liquor Control Board system. Public opinion polls have shown that people support privatization, and they have for a very long time, yet efforts to get Pennsylvania out of the liquor business have always failed in the General Assembly.

The latest poll, conducted for the Commonwealth Foundation by FM3 Public Research & Strategy of California, showed the same conclusion, but it offered new insight into the range and depth of opposition to the Prohibition-era state stores.

Of the 800 registered voters interviewed from Jan. 22 to Jan. 27, those who favored ending the government monopoly on the sale and distribution of wine and spirits led those opposed, 61 percent to 35 percent. There was majority support everywhere in the state but in the city of Philadelphia. Privatization was favored by both women and men, across all age groups and across all political affiliations. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans favored converting the system to private enterprise, as did 71 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats.

What should be even more interesting to legislators, and particularly to Democrats who are sympathetic to labor unions representing state store clerks, is that even in union households and among union members, privatization was a clear winner. Fifty-two percent of the respondents who were union members, 58 percent of those who had a union member in their households and 61 percent of those in nonunion families favored abolishing the government stores.

In other words, there is no reason, even for Democratic lawmakers who have been the chief obstacle, to oppose abolishing the state liquor monopoly.

Pennsylvania doesn't belong in the alcohol business, and lawmakers who would like to keep their jobs had better start listening to the people who elected them.

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