JESSE DANIEL: 'Sweet spot' for alcohol system reform
April 19, 2013 10:40 AM

In politics a “sweet spot” is when the right thing corresponds with the popular thing. It provides elected representatives with an opportunity to make the world better without fear of a political backlash. Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize Pennsylvania’s alcohol system is such a sweet spot.

Getting Pennsylvania out of the alcohol business is the right thing to do. Government’s role is to provide to its citizens those core services that the private sector cannot: build roads, enforce criminal laws, etc. Despite Democrats claiming the contrary, selling alcohol is not a “core service” of government.

Further, Pennsylvania’s alcohol system is fundamentally flawed in that it has conflicting goals. On one hand the state (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars promoting, marketing and selling alcohol. At the same time the state spends millions more on the conflicting goals of enforcing, restricting and curtailing alcohol sales. The government should stop selling alcohol and focus solely on enforcing our alcohol laws.

Citizens across Pennsylvania support privatization. Polls show support for privatization above 60 percent. Under Gov. Corbett’s plan, privatization would generate more than $1 billion for education. School districts in Indiana County would receive block grants totaling more than $6.7 million over four years.

And there would be no material reduction in annual money Pennsylvania receives from the sale of alcohol because more than 80 percent of money generated comes from sales taxes that would remain under privatization. In fact, funds would increase as the free market responsibly increases sales, and Pennsylvanians in border counties stop crossing into surrounding states to purchase alcohol (Pennsylvania loses tens of millions of dollars in sales taxes from this practice). Finally, Gov. Corbett’s plan would increase funds for alcohol enforcement by 22 percent and treatment by 75 percent.

Gov. Corbett’s privatization plan is the sweet spot. It does the right thing by getting the government out of an area in which it shouldn’t be, while doing so in a way that enjoys broad support. Clearly, the right thing to do is to support Gov. Corbett’s plan to get Pennsylvania out of the alcohol business.

Jesse Daniel


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