Last call: Now is the time to end the state liquor monopoly

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Add juice to a cocktail and it will dilute its punch, but add political juice to a legislative proposal and it gets stronger.

That will be the effect on efforts to privatize the sale of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania when Gov. Tom Corbett puts the power of his office, and his Republican Party's majority in both chambers of the Legislature, into the mix. He is expected to do just that sometime soon, probably before introducing his 2013-14 budget on Feb. 5.

It's about time.

Removing the sale of wine and spirits from Pennsylvania's Prohibition-era monopoly was one of the governor's campaign pledges when he was seeking the office in 2010. Despite that, Mr. Corbett has not been front-and-center on the issue or active in pushing last year's legislation, which was proposed by his fellow Republican, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods.

Now, the governor appears ready to take the lead with his own proposal to privatize both wholesale and retail operations. Apparently, he will put Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley in charge of the drive. It reportedly will allow for 2,000 retail outlets, with current beer distributors able to sell beer, wine and liquor, while groceries, convenience stores and big-box outlets could sell wine and beer.

Even though Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches in Harrisburg, the governor's plan will face strong opposition -- from the union that represents state store workers and has proven a powerful adversary in past attempts at privatization; from the state's beer distributors, who have invested in licenses for their businesses, which will change in value depending on how privatization is implemented; and from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and social conservatives, who favor tight regulation of alcohol.

If the governor gives beer distributors an advantage over other retailers, that could temper some opposition. If he makes allowances for current employees, that might appease other critics. But he cannot bend too far. Pennsylvanians have waited long enough for alcohol sales to become a private enterprise, offering quality merchandise and good service at fair prices.

We're eager to see details of a full-strength plan from the governor.

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