Your Voice | The other side to liquor privitization
Gov. Corbett's plan isn't all good news
February 1, 2013, 1:05 am·
A few thoughts about what was left out of the Jan. 28 article, “Gov. Corbett to push privatization of liquor sales”:
First, there was no mention of the loss of revenue averaging over $100 million a year in exchange for a one-time cash windfall, the size of which pro-privatization interests have every reason in inflate.
True, tax revenue would continue, but there’s another consideration. It’s often argued that with higher prices in Pennsylvania than in surrounding states, privatization would bring lower prices. But according to the independent PLCB Users Group, Pennsylvania taxes alcohol more heavily than surrounding states do. Privatization alone would do nothing to change that, so lower prices are not a given.
The rather-extensively quoted Charlie Gerow, described by the Daily Pennsylvanian as “a spokesperson for the newly formed grassroots Coalition to End the Liquor Monopoly, is called “a prominent Harrisburg Republican consultant” by The Patriot-News of central Pennsylvania. The same article identifies other organizers of the Coalition as “a chairman of the state’s largest taxpayer organization,” the “retired president of the Columbia-Montour Chamber of Commerce” and the Cumberland County treasurer. Grassroots?
The DP article sandwiched a statement about the wine and spirits store on 41st and Market Streets closing with Gerow’s comments about more stores opening and the “added convenience” to be brought by privatization. This juxtaposition seems to imply that the lack of a place to buy alcohol conveniently located near Penn is somehow the fault of the state store system. The store at 41st and Market closed, as the DP reported at the time, because of building issues. There would have been a new state wine and spirits store in the area around 43rd and Walnut streets, but it was strenuously opposed by the Muslim community associated with a nearby mosque.
Last June, again as reported by the DP, the zoning board approved a proposal for a store at 43rd and Chestnut streets. Don’t think Penn, with its huge real estate empire and political clout, is going to allow a liquor store any closer than that!
Religious opposition to increased availability of alcohol is obviously a factor, as mentioned above. Many conservative Christian leaders oppose privatization, and in some parts of Pennsylvania this can be very important politically. Another anti-privatization force is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for obvious reasons.
What about the loss of some 5,000 jobs? It would be incredibly naive to think that huge numbers of present PLCB employees would magically pick up jobs in privatized retail situations. And even if they did it would probably mean the abysmal pay and working conditions of most retail employment. Think “race to the bottom” here. Does Pennsylvania need to shed any more decently paying jobs?
As far as health issues, in 2011 the United States Center for Disease Control’s Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommended “against further privatization of alcohol sales,” based on a review by specialists of the available research.
Finally, there is a widespread belief that privatization will inevitably lead to lots of incredibly stocked stores in great locations. The reality could be quite a bit different. Other states don’t have alcohol superstores in every neighborhood. Is your supermarket going to stock everything that an average state store has? Want to shop for wine at Wal-Mart? If small operators could afford to buy licenses in Pennsylvania, no doubt the majority would only offer selections as limited as those in small liquor stores everywhere else.
Ellen Slack is a Delegate from AFSCME Local 590 (Penn Libraries Support Staff) to the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.