Editorial: Pa.’s last call

Back in 1933, in the wan­ing days of Pro­hib­i­tion, Pennsylvania Gov. Gif­ford Pin­chot called a spe­cial as­sembly of the state le­gis­lature and in just 23 days pushed through le­gis­la­tion de­signed to re­strain li­quor sales in the state.

Pin­chot, who didn’t drink, out­lined the reas­on­ing be­hind his state store plan in a Janu­ary 1934 art­icle for The Rotari­an magazine. He said the new le­gis­la­tion was “an hon­est ef­fort of sin­cere drys and sin­cere wets work­ing to­geth­er to pre­vent every pre­vent­able evil of the li­quor traffic.”

The words – sin­cere drys and sin­cere wets – seem like something from the sepia-tin­ted past and out of step with mod­ern times.

Gov. Tom Corbett last month be­came yet the latest Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor to try to undo the state’s mono­poly on li­quor sales. His privat­iz­a­tion plan car­ries a one-time bo­nus for pub­lic edu­ca­tion. Some $1 bil­lion gained over four years from the sale of the state’s li­quor as­sets would be dir­ec­ted in­to pub­lic edu­ca­tion block grants. Though we op­posed his pre­vi­ous cam­paign to privat­ize the state lot­tery, we think he’s on the right track to try to turn the state li­quor sys­tem over to private hands.

We agree with him when he said, “Selling li­quor … is not a core func­tion of gov­ern­ment. Edu­ca­tion is.”

And we ap­plaud every ef­fort to give tax cred­its to busi­nesses that em­ploy those state work­ers who would lose their jobs, and we agree with state Rep. John Taylor that the fam­ily op­er­ated beer dis­trib­ut­ors de­serve spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion.

But it’s long past the time for Pennsylvania to join 48 oth­er states in ac­cept­ing the con­veni­ence, lower prices and bet­ter se­lec­tion that private busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in a com­pet­it­ive en­vir­on­ment can of­fer.

Any­one who has lived else­where can tell you of the con­veni­ence of buy­ing wine along with your gro­cer­ies, or stop­ping at a con­veni­ence store for a six pack of beer. In this day and age, we don’t need or want a state store sys­tem that is de­signed to make it as in­con­veni­ent as pos­sible to host a party or a hol­i­day din­ner.

Both a Frank­lin & Mar­shall Col­lege poll and one com­mis­sioned by the Com­mon­wealth Found­a­tion tell us that a ma­jor­ity of our fel­low cit­izens sup­port get­ting rid of the state store sys­tem.

That’s not to say the state Li­quor Con­trol Board has done a bad job. Over the last four years, pub­lic per­cep­tions of the stores’ se­lec­tions, cus­tom­er ser­vice, know­ledge of its staffers and more af­ford­able prices have all got­ten bet­ter. But these are just like put­ting new tires on an old ja­lopy.

The bot­tom line is that the ex­per­i­ment called Pro­hib­i­tion is done and the “sin­cere wets” should have the free­dom of choice that privat­iz­a­tion would bring. ••



You can reach at lswanson@bsmphilly.com.

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