Liquor and gas: Legislators should keep the issues separate
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For the second time this year, the top Senate Republican is throwing cold water on plans to privatize liquor stores in Pennsylvania.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, who in July said he favored giving state-owned liquor stores more flexibility in hours and pricing before exploring the option of selling them, this week warned that a soon-to-be-released report raises serious questions about the fiscal feasibility of putting the LCB out of business.
If a measure introduced by Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai becomes law, Mr. Scarnati says the state will have to cut services or hike the tax on liquor to generate the same revenue the state gets from the current system. Supporters of Mr. Turzai's plan have explained that the gallonage tax as drafted in his bill can be modified and, so far, it's impossible to tell what items may end up costing more, less or the same if it is enacted. Mr. Scarnati's tortured public position just complicates the discussion.
What he's actually doing is engaging in political horse trading, trying to drum up support for his priority, instituting an impact fee on natural gas drillers tapping into the Marcellus Shale deposits under Pennsylvania. We agree the levy is necessary to help address the costs and potential environmental damage associated with the burgeoning drilling industry here.
But there is no logical reason to link the drilling levy with the LCB.
Both proposals have merit. Pennsylvania must impose a fee or tax on companies that have the most to gain from extracting Marcellus Shale gas. Likewise, Pennsylvania must get out of the business of selling liquor.
These sound measures should be enacted. They're strong positions favored by the citizens of Pennsylvania, and they deserve to stand on their own.
First Published September 29, 2011 12:00 am