Defining moment: The House faces a historic choice on liquor sales
Share with others:
It's a defining moment for Pennsylvania. Does the state move forward and join the 21st century, or does it cling to the backward ways of the past?
House members who look to the future will push hard today to get Majority Leader Mike Turzai's amendment into a bill that would take the state out of the liquor business. Those with a fondness for the 1930s, when the government monopoly was created, will cling to this relic of post-Prohibition.
If ultimately passed by the House and then by the Senate, the Turzai plan will offer 1,600 retail licenses first to beer distributors and then for auction to the highest bidders. It would put the sale of packaged wine and spirits where it belongs, in the hands of private merchants who know the trade, want to compete and enjoy serving customers.
The system run by the state Liquor Control Board is Pennsylvania's dirty socialist secret, in which government sets the price, decides what to sell and has no competition. Molasses moves faster than the LCB, as proven by the system's creeping acceptance of credit cards, scattered supermarket co-locations and limited Sunday hours.
At the retail counter, customers face some of the highest-paid, often surly, clerks in America, state employees represented by unions bent on thwarting reform. It's time for our legislators to send them a message: especially after the Wisconsin recall vote, the state deserves a system that works for the consumer and not the state employee.
Modern Pennsylvanians are stunned to know that the only liquor system with as much government control operates in Utah. Such quaint retro thinking has no place in a diverse and sophisticated state.
That makes the possible vote today on the Turzai amendment a major test -- for Gov. Tom Corbett, who has promised reform, and his fellow Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature.
For the party that believes in limited government, getting the state out of liquor sales should be a no-brainer. But it's an issue also laced with symbolism. How the House votes now will signal whether Pennsylvania wants to move ahead or decline.
First Published June 13, 2012 12:00 am