Liquor privatization will not get to finish line without a fight

While the state House has approved legislation to privatize the liquor store system in Pennsylvania, there is deep division regarding the plan, indicating the state Senate step toward privatization will be tricky.

Among local lawmakers, there was a clear split over the legislation along party lines.

Democratic lawmakers Rick Mirabito of Williamsport and Michael K. Hanna Sr. of Lock Haven both opposed the privatization legislation.

Mirabito believes the price of alcohol will increase and young people would be encouraged to consume more alcohol. Hanna believes as much as $250 million a year of revenue will be lost and “incomprehensible” human suffering and job losses will be triggered by the privatization of the liquor store system.

There’s no doubting the convictions of both lawmakers.

But we find it hard to believe placing all the liquor stores under a private enterprise system, in which competition is a way of life, would drive the price of alcohol up. And how does making this a private enterprise encourage youths to drink? Certainly not as much as the daily flood of alcohol-related advertisements on television, we would suspect.

No one can say for certain what will happen with those now employed in the liquor store system. But someone has to sell the product and maintain the inventory and logic tells us those now employed in those rolls would be the most qualified for future hiring.

Somehow, 48 of the nation’s 50 states have managed to have a privately-run liquor system without economic calamity. Go figure.

And what’s so bad about a one-time infusion of perhaps $1 billion in cash to state coffers at a time when the state is trying to balance a budget, solve pension woes and pump fresh dollars into the public education system?

Expect weeks of gloom and doom regarding liquor privatization in the state Senate, the last wall to this 21st Century legislation. Pennsylvania’s legendary reticence to logical change will not be stilled quietly.