Your editorial relative to the privatization of our liquor stores ("Cheers to Change," March 10) is short-sighted and the plan is a loser for the taxpayers and consumers. If I were to offer to employ 4,500 people in decent-paying jobs (not minimum wage jobs) and provide them with health care, retirement benefits, plus rebating to the state more than $500 million per year, of which at least $100 million is pure profit, they would chain me to a chair until I signed. That is exactly what we currently have, yet we are willing to give it away to get a one-shot infusion of money.
In the process, it will eliminate more than 4,500 good-paying jobs and replace them with minimum-wage jobs. The Liquor Control Board is the only state agency that pays for itself, does not receive the big-box discount of 1 percent in sales tax, which the purchasers of the licenses shall receive, and collects sales tax on all sales -- something that routinely does not happen with private enterprise.
As to any argument that privatization will be more convenient to the public, let me assure you not only will that not happen, but it will be far more expensive to the public. Recently, my state representative challenged me to visit a big-box liquor store in Florida. First of all, big-box stores are located about 50 miles apart at the closest point and the price on nine randomly selected liquors and wines versus what we pay in Pennsylvania revealed that, overall, nine purchases in Pennsylvania were cheaper! More importantly, if you buy at the corner store, or what we might call the convenience store, the prices were more than $25 cheaper here in Pennsylvania!
Privatization is a nice reward for those who contributed to the governor and Republican House members. Have you ever wondered why it is that private enterprise will be paying millions of dollars for these licenses? They will make the profit, not the state. And believe me, prices for liquor and wine will go up.
Wake up -- this is nothing but a money grab by those who have the money and want more at our expense. The solution is to continue to modernize and expand our current system and keep the profits for the Pennsylvania taxpayers.
JOSEPH J. PASS
The writer is an attorney who represents employees and labor organizations in cases involving labor-management relations.