Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hearing on Privatizing State Stores

The debate over selling off Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores is officially underway. The first day of a State Senate hearing didn’t break much new ground on whether or not to privatize Pennsylvania’s state stores.A few Democrats voiced concern private stores wouldn’t screen for underage drinkers as vigorously as state employees do. Leonard Gilroy of the libertarian Reason Foundation argued the opposite, pointing out the private owners will have just shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a license.

"You’ve just paid for that, and you have the risk of losing it? I would argue on balance the profit and private sector incentives are going to align. That you’re not going to really want your employees there to be loose on those sort of things, and you certainly are not going to take that risk, because you have a ton of capital at play. Not only the license itself, but the whole business."

Witnesses also offered differing takes on whether or not a sell-off would lead to increased drinking, and whether the one-time revenue would be worth reduced future income. Supporters of selling the stores
said, in the end, Pennsylvania’s government shouldn’t be in the business of selling alcohol.
That rankled Allegheny County Democrat Jim Ferlo.

"They’re great stores. Well-stocked, great prices, great staff, union jobs, great wages. What’s broken in the system, other than broad philosophy, that makes you want to come here today to say, ‘let’s throw this great system out'."

It’s not clear when a House or Senate committee will vote on a privatization bill.

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