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Legislators would be wise to privatize sale of alcohol

After a summer of public debate and discussion, Pennsylvania legislators have again failed to privatize liquor stores.

Liquor sales in Pennsylvania are governed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), a prohibition-era government agency that grants, renews, and validates all liquor licenses in the state. In a USA Today column, Matthew Brouillette, founder of the Commonwealth Foundation, recalled a remark by former Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot after the PLCB’s creation in 1933. Pinchot stated that the purpose of the PLCB is to “discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible.”

Such tight control of Pennsylvania’s alcohol market is no longer necessary. Pennsylvania and Utah are the only two remaining states that maintain full state control over liquor sales and distribution. It is for this reason that alcohol is conspicuously missing from convenience stores, and there is an extremely rare and limited sale of beer and wine in grocery stores or other stores not certified by the PLCB.

This summer saw a resurgence of the movement to end state control of alcohol, with legislators debating the issue and submitting privatization proposals, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A recent editorial in the Post-Gazette, stated that 61 percent of Pennsylvanians support the measure to privatize liquor; however, by the conclusion of the summer legislative session, legislators did not pass any bill on the matter.

Liquor privatization would allow a greater number of liquor stores, expanded hours of alcohol sales, and cheaper prices — all due to greater competition. Increased competition would most likely expand the liquor sector, lead to more jobs, and produce greater tax revenue. Additionally, it would give people the option to buy beer, wine, and hard liquors in the same stores; right now, people do not have this option since beer distributors are licensed separately.

It is time for Pennsylvania to join the majority of America in allowing liquor stores to function in an unconstrained free market. It is only through this option that people will see greater selections, longer hours, and lower prices for alcohol. Pennsylvania politicians may not have passed legislation regarding privatization this summer, but Lehigh Valley local newspaper The Morning Call mentioned that this issue may be debated in the fall. Let’s hope our legislators make the right decision.