By Senator Mike Regan
Since 1933, Pennsylvania has implemented an archaic system of selling wines and spirits. At the time, Governor Gifford Pinchot, taking action after the ban was repealed, established the current system of state stores operated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). After nearly 90 years of state monopoly, the time has come to end government control over the sale of wines and spirits.
Gov. Pinchot, a Republican, has run into opposition to his plan across the aisle for fear it will create a “political machine” and “a second era of ban for Pennsylvania” . These statements have certainly come to fruition, and now it is the members of Pinchot’s own party who are calling for an end to this costly system which only remains in place because of the political influence of the unions which represent the employees of the stores in the United States. ‘State.
One of these organizations in particular, the Union of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), is headed by a man who receives compensation of over $ 400,000 a year between salary and benefits. Keeping that big paycheck is his priority, not the interests of consumers or taxpayers. On top of that, the UFCW is pumping millions of dollars into the coffers of political candidates, including half a million for the governor alone, and they are using the threat of a main challenger to convince sitting lawmakers to vote against it. issues that the UFCW opposes – like privatization.
Unfortunately, all of this defeats one of Governor Pinchot’s key goals of separating alcohol from politics.
Of course, separating politics from all problems these days is almost impossible. What is not impossible, however, is to separate our state government from the actual alcohol trade. It is one thing for the government to regulate the sale of a product like alcohol. It is quite another for the government to be both the wholesaler and the retailer of this product.
The PLCB continues to tout its alleged increased profits, but what it fails to disclose are its arbitrary mark-ups on products, the more than $ 1 billion in pension obligations for thousands of employees, including employees of state stores; and the amount spent on the rental of approximately 600 liquor stores.
This state-run business is very expensive to operate, and the sale of profits is both laughable and disturbing. The PLCB and UFCW both use the argument that privatization will essentially bring down the company by making it easier to access alcohol. All the while, the PLCB uses marketing materials to get consumers to buy more – even using discount incentives that licensees are not allowed to use under the Liquor Code.
Protecting Pennsylvanians from access to alcohol is not a pillar of the PLCB, especially since state stores do not even need to shut off customers, as is required of everyone else. retailers. Ultimately, the PLCB is a profit-making company, and it will continue to fight to maintain its monopoly in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, they fail to recognize consumer demands for convenience and product selection, which successful businesses do every day.
Convenience in today’s world of online shopping and curbside pickup shouldn’t be viewed negatively when it comes to alcohol. I fully recognize the importance of protecting young people from access, but restricting responsible adults on where they can buy alcohol and what they can buy is exactly what it sounds like – a system born of prohibition.
And the people who advocate for the protection of this archaic system, including Governor Tom Wolf and the UFCW, are among the same people pushing to allow mixed drinks to go on the go. Recall that restaurants were allowed to sell such drinks during the governor’s COVID closures. Anyone claiming that privatization will have negative impacts by making it easier to access alcohol shouldn’t ask people to leave a restaurant with a take-out cup filled with an unknown amount of alcohol and a piece of duct tape on it. straw hole.
What they should recognize is that the PLCB system is losing money by limiting the products they are willing to sell in our government stores. In turn, this prevents small, Pennsylvania-based, large-scale international companies from gaining shelf space and doing business in the Commonwealth. This then forces residents to cross state borders to find products in demand, filling those state coffers and, under our current laws, making the residents who bring alcohol back to Pennsylvania criminals.
As we move into 2022, it’s time to step out of the dark ages of our prohibition-era system and privatize alcohol sales in Pennsylvania once and for all. I strongly support the efforts of my colleague, Representative Natalie Mihalek, and I encourage other members of the Legislative Assembly – and the public – to join me.
Senator Mike Regan is chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and represents the 31st Senate District of Pennsylvania covering parts of Cumberland and York counties.